#5 My Knees Buckled

She was the one to give me the news. I had been flying in from Montana, so away from phones for much of the day. She met me inside the airport, which was the first oddity – we are cheap. We don’t pay for airport parking when she can just meet me out front.

But as I crossed past the line separating the secure area from baggage claim, there she was.

Maybe she was just too excited to see me, I thought for a brief second. Can’t be mad at a parking fee for that level of your girl missing you. The fact that she was struggling to find her voice – any voice, really – to tell me why she was there set off my alarms.

My brother Greg had called. Chris was dead.

I immediately felt relief – it was bad news, but bad for my brother Greg; I racked my brain trying to think of one of his friends named Chris that he would think I needed to know passed. And I really wanted to reassure her that she didn’t need to be so distraught. It’s not like I was close friends with…

Close friends with…

Close with…

That’s when my knees buckled. I can point to the exact part of the Burbank airport wall that caught my body, that kept me from sinking to the floor. I’ve walked past it many times since, my legs instinctively wobbling at the memory.

You see, I didn’t know any friend of Greg’s named Chris that would warrant a trip inside the airport to tell me. I only knew one Chris that would need such a personal touch. One whose death announcement couldn’t be left on an answering machine, or in an e-mail, or wait until I got home.

Not a friend, but one born to share adversity.

She rushed to catch me as I tried to make sense of it. It wasn’t possible. It was unfathomable.

And it was now our reality.

That wasn’t the first, nor the last of the tragedies we weathered together. Those too young to go, too soon taken, too late to love up some more before they’re gone. Or the pains of those we love enduring loss – the lost child, the sick relative, the broken marriage. The lost house, the crushed career, the broken dream. The lost pet, the vanished job, the broken relationship.

“My God, my God…”

“A voice cries out in Ramah…”

“On the willows there…”

As one musical tells us, there’s a grief that can’t be spoken. She can’t bear my grief for me. And I, as much as I try, can’t bear hers for her. We can, and do, sit in it together. We ask the questions of God together. We listen for the answers together.

God never promises a life without hardship, or mourning, or tragedy. He does promise that we don’t have to be alone in the dark. And that’s what this partnership we have does – it reflects that part of the image of God, carrying light when the other’s arms are too tired to hold the lantern, guiding along the path when the other’s eyes are too damp to see.

To walk alongside; to bear one another; to wait upon the Lord together.

Just to be there.

To find the voice for the message.

And to rush to catch each other when our knees buckle.

{originally posted as part of the countdown to our silver anniversary}

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