I never realized the scope of goodness that prevails in our world, until my sweet daughter left it. The outpouring of love and support from friends, family, community, and even utter strangers was truly incredible to behold. If before I had doubted that anyone ever truly cared about me and my humble little family, now I was certain that was not the case… My faith in humanity had been restored.
Recently, I came across an article, by Catherine Woodiwiss, that referred to these great humans as being firefighters and builders. It touched on the idea that in the wake of a traumatic event, there are those that go running to the rescue (the firefighters), while others stick around afterward for the re-building—a process which would appear to last indefinitely… The article was interesting in that it pointed out that most of these individuals are either one or the other, but very few manage to be both.
In my experience, this has proven to be so very true. Immediately after Josie died, we were suddenly bombarded by countless individuals all wanting to help in some way. It was truly amazing and beautiful—howbeit, A LOT overwhelming at the same time! When the funeral passed, it would be another few weeks to months where we continued to receive the constant loving attention of many.
Over the course of the next year and a half, many showed up in various significant ways to lend support as we hobbled through the legal system that was intricately tied to every part of our lives, due to the circumstances surrounding that most dark night. As long as I live, I will be forever grateful to each and every soul that has offered my family and me their strength… Indeed, there were many great firefighters, along with steady builders, that expended much of themselves to give to us, that we might have enough—for we truly did not.
Slowly, as our strength has increased, these remarkable souls have been able to take a step back. One of the greatest lessons of my life has been born of my forever broken-heart, and it is this: how to be a gracious receiver. The builders (and an occasional firefighter!) continue to show up like ministering angels, precisely when a brick or two comes toppling down anew… They are all my heroes, and they are absolutely everywhere—walking amongst us in the form of plain, ordinary people like me and you!!!
It requires a tremendous amount of courage to walk alongside the bereaved. They can be difficult to understand with all their ups and downs. For the grief-stricken, it often proves to be a very disorienting, overwhelming and confusing time, as they clumsily navigate uncharted waters. Perhaps they appear to want to be left alone, when in reality they desperately need someone to quietly stand beside them… or, they may seem irritable and easily annoyed, when in fact they are just extremely weary, and simply cannot make one more decision at the moment or deal with one more thing—no matter how seemingly small.
There must be a thousand articles online spelling out in painstaking detail the proper etiquette of how, and how not, to talk to a grieving person. In my opinion, fear of saying the wrong thing is not helpful to anyone. Mostly, the bereaved just need someone willing to be uncomfortable for a moment, and not shy away from the awkwardness of it all. As they offer a limitless supply of tender love and patience—true builders understand that some things will never be quite fixed until we embrace our loved ones again on the other side…
Death is the one sure thing in this life… It is the commonality we all share. I feel especially privileged and humbled to have experienced firsthand the extraordinary reach of ordinary men, women, young people, and even children, as they have extended their hands and hearts to strengthen and love my entire family through the unthinkable. There is no doubt in my mind that they would absolutely do it all over again, just for you and yours, for this is who they are—firefighters and builders!!!!!