I call you friends…
In the days since leaving…home, college, home state, the single life, the (paid) work force, and the status as daughter, a common thread that appears in the moments of wear, longing and grief is the desire for my friends, and for my Friend.
My dear Sisters of Lazarus, and Lazarus himself, counted themselves among the friends of the Friend. Mary sat at the feet of one whom she loved; Martha set the feast for the one whose company she knew all enjoyed. Their Friend surely was a welcome presence in their home. And when Lazarus died, both Sisters were grief- stricken not only at the loss of their brother, but indeed, at the deliberate absence of their Friend in the hour of family need. He wasn’t where the Sisters needed him to be. And Martha confronted Jesus, demanded an accounting of his absence in that hour, Jesus was moved and shed tears for his friend and for the Sister’s loss. Perhaps a tear was shed even for regret that his miracle required he not be in Bethany, even when he knew the Sisters longed for his presence.
In my own hours of grief, of leaving people, places, or being left by them in recent days, I look for and long for and shout at the Friend for not being where I expect him and “need” him to be. But in the Martha flurry of activity of managing a home, raising a family, and attending to my mother’s affairs before and after her death, I am mindful that if I sit like Mary, I hear…
—that a particular kind of friend has indeed been present. In the hour of my mother’s wake, my two closest girlfriends, a woman who very recently had experienced parental loss, and those who were no strangers to the heaven-bound, were present. The friends of not just the heart, but of the Faith, those women baptized and confirmed and whose children were also blessed by their faith, were present and they symbolically, sacramentally stood in for this Friend we share.
—that those friends have also surfaced in my conversations with others of faith, during touchstones moments after church, in facebook messages and posts with friends of faith, and in calls to check in. These, too have been moments of sitting at the Lord’s feet, listening and being loved.
This week the reaction of the Sisters of Lazarus to their brother’s death, and to Jesus’ late arrival came alive. The need that the Sisters felt had been denied at the greatest possible expense was played out in front of my eyes. I watched as lines of mourners greeted the parents of a young man who died too soon. By all accounts a gifted, brilliant, athletic, talented, artistic, loving, and healing presence, this young man drew others to him like moths to a flame. His funeral was packed with those whom he touched from birth through elementary school to high school to college and beyond. Speaker after speaker told stories of his attractiveness, his talent, his love, his magnetism, his blessedness. The young man’s parents were credited with loving him into existence, fanning the flames of his positive nature, building his character and blessing him, blessing him, blessing him. And he blessed others..black, white, Christian, Jew, young, old, male, female…and drew them all to him. And then he died. And his mother and father, rocks in the community, took all in until the last moment of the funeral…and then as the lid was closed they broke as Martha broke, cried out as the Sisters cried out..and my own heart joined the mother’s wail to God at the wrongness, at the darkness, at what surely must be the absence of the Friend.
What miracle comes next? What does a Sister of Lazarus do in these moments to come? What Friend to look for, how to BE friend to one in such grief that will not be alleviated by rolling away a stone? How to be the friend, and the Sister, of one who was raised to another Sister whose child is in the depths of the tomb?
I think another step in this exercise of active contemplation may be to develop this Sisterhood of Lazarus (shall we be SoL? 🙂 ). Not not just try to find Mary moments in Martha business, or to love as one or another—but to specifically look for how to be friend to the Lord; to allow the Friend work through me even as I seek His friendship through others. To be transparent in this exercise, especially with sister mourners, sisters in the faith, sisters who labor to see the Spirit bear fruit in their lives and the lives of their children. To especially model this friendship, baptized and confirmed as it is in sacraments of water, oil, bread, wine, to my own daughters, Sisters themselves, so that it may be said of them as it was said of the dearly departed—well done, good and faithful one.