I have three and a half pages left in my prayer journal. The same prayer journal that I started on April 28th, 2011.
Thank You LORD for a brand new, thick, blank journal – just waiting for me to fill its pages with the things You speak to me. Thank You that You do speak. You love to communicate and You love to love me. I’m so thankful for that.
Tucked in one page over is a small, wrinkled piece of paper. Shawna and I were on our infamous girls weekend. I had left my journal at home, and God was speaking, and pen needed to move and thoughts needed to be recorded. The Scottsdale Resort will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Thirteen days later, she was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. On Friday the 13th. Ironically, today is Friday the 13th. I think today will be much better than that day.
I realized this morning that I’m hesitating in filling up those last three pages. So much life has happened inside of that journal. So much sorrow. Death. Wrestling. Healing. Hope. And now that it’s nearly full, I’m slowing down. Putting off allowing the words to spill out until there’s no more room and it’s closed and I’ve moved on to another brand new, thick, blank journal that’s been waiting at the ready since Christmas.
Shawna has been gone now for nineteen months. But she’s still on these pages. She’s not stored away quite yet. And somehow, knowing that the prayers when she was alive are just a handful of pages and so much life away, makes me almost feel like she’s sitting here with me. Digging in alongside me. Just like we used to.
One evening last August, we drove out to meet Scott and Trenton and Shawna’s close friends. We had steak. And Shawna’a secret mashed potatoes recipe. And we laughed and drank wine. And then we walked to the pond. And took a scoop out of an otherwise everyday bag. And we scattered her ashes.
In that moment between scooping and scattering, life stood still. What was once the most incredible friendship of my life had been broken down physically into its purest form. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. I looked at my hand. Stared at it. Rolled it around. It was equal parts powder fine and texture grit. My hand was completely covered. Ashes settled into creases. Sticking to me. And then a slight breeze picked up and blew small pieces of it away.
This is what friendship looks like, I thought. We do our best to live our lives and love well and let people in and give everything out. And somehow, the people surrounding us coat us. They cover us in a skin tight blanket of grace and life becomes so intertwined with inside jokes and read-between-the-lines that you can’t remember what’s you and what’s them. It’s the best part of them. And the best part of you. And the worst part of both. And pieces of it all are carried away with the wind of God’s mercy and the power of testimony and it settles on places we aren’t even aware of.
That friendship isn’t just for me. It’s for her. And for them. And for the person a year from now that will hear her story and be changed by it. Particles of her faith still being carried with every breath. And every obedience. And what remains is glory. And I’m skin-covered with grace.
I read this quote at a friend’s wedding three weeks ago and it resonates in the deepest part of me:
Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
– Dinah Maria Mulock Craik