Watch out, this is a very emotional, difficult post. I may end up deleting or revising it because I don't like to sound pathetic. But for now I think writing it will help me work through some things.
Yesterday, two young men engaged to marry two of my good friends were killed in a car accident overseas - after surviving a cancer scare for one, a gunshot wound and many weeks in a coma for the other - both recovered and on their way to the airport to fly back the U.S. and get married. But they didn't make it.
Just heartbreaking. Found out first thing this morning and spent several hours with the girls, later today, though reluctant to believe my presence would be any comfort. It's not like losing parents or a spouse at the end of a long life, but in some ways like losing a child: a loss of tremendous potential. How do you deal with the death of the person you'd hoped to spend your life with?
My own relational vulnerability has been much on my mind, lately. Seems like there are two ways to be relationally vulnerable: having relationships, and not having them. The vulnerability of being alone, and the vulnerability of being dependent on others. Great pain can come through either path. Sometimes I worry about what will happen to me if I get really sick, afraid I might find out that I really am alone in the world. Much evidence suggests that I actually have a strong, invisible net - uncomfortable as it is not to know whom God would use to catch me.
I've also wondered what would it be like to be the most important person in someone else's life. I don't think I've ever experienced that, at least not in any long-lasting way. Not with my family (though we love each other!), and not like these girls who said, yes, I will marry you, to these young men, nor in the sense of the relationship they have with each other: mutually acknowledged best friends.
You can't make that happen, can you? I was there when they met and watched their friendship grow, glad for them, but a bit sorry that the chemistry or whatever wasn't there for me to be a closer friend to each of them. My best friends are always closer to somebody else. Several of my favorites are married men, so of course I have to be more careful in those cases. There was another woman in our office with whom I thought I could be best friends. But she moved overseas to get married several years ago and I haven't been able to maintain and grow that friendship into what I had hoped it would be.
Oh, I have lots of willing, loving friends, but what I'm talking about is sort of like finding someone who is nice enough to date, but not someone you could forsake all others for; or wise enough to learn from, but not someone you really feel you can really put yourself under and ask to mentor you. All three of those slots in my life - best friend, husband, mentor - remain blank.
I hope I don't hurt anybody by writing those words. There are families and individuals with whom I have a strong and precious bond, and I am grateful for them (for you!). But most are scattered and live far away. So when I think about things like who would take me to my chemo treatments or hold me when I cry or stand up with me at my wedding, I think it would probably be other, more-random people in that invisible net, not the people I love best.
It's OK to grieve about that, I think, and to pray, but there's no guarantee that I'll have those kind of relationships. They may grow. They may even grow out of the acquaintanceships that presently, don't seem promising. But they may not. Outside of the movies many people never have best friends. And it really is possible to have a good life without ever meeting "the love of your life." I have a lot to be grateful for, and there's no sense pining away over what I don't have. The mentor thing is not so emotional; I think I'm just going to jump into and take what I can get at least for this next season (sabbatical - more details when I have them - soon).
Well: those ultimate, close relationships, they do make you extremely vulnerable, don't they? Friends have told me about looking down at their infant child and realizing what a scary place the world now is - how horrible it could be for their child if something happened to them, or for them if something happened for their child.
Life sure is risky; loving other people, more so.