Befriend Me: Relationship Transforms Grief & Outing After Mom’s Death
My mother lived a reclusive life, beginning about the time I turned 8. She left the house two or three times a year. Dad did the shopping. But when I got older, Mom ventured out every spring for our sale.
It’s the one thing we did together. After she got sick and then after she died, I found it difficult to go to the annual rummage sale. I missed a few times. Grief works like that. It twists pleasure into pain.
Now I go every year to the sale with a good friend, Jennifer. Jennifer stands in the gap. I wrote about the gap last week. It’s the huge hole that death pounds into our lives with meteoric fury.
I think God sends people to stand in the gap. These people cannot replace our parents or loved ones who die. No one could. But they meet us in our grief. They may give us something our parents no longer can.
My Mom, My Friend
Throughout my childhood, my mother was my parent. She was to be obeyed. She was not my friend. Not until later. Then she was both a figure of respect and of companionship.
The annual sale was evidence of this transformation. I cannot remember if I was an older teenager or a young adult in college when we discovered the sale. Collierville United Methodist Church, a congregation outside of Memphis, holds the event to raise money for the annual youth mission trip.
Throughout the year, it collects used clothing, furniture, books and household goods. Church volunteers assemble the items in the gym and in classrooms.
The highlight of the day was the “bag sale” at the end. You paid $1 for everything crammed into a paper grocery sack. It’s amazing how good something you turned down at the half-price sale looks when it only costs pennies. The shoppers go wild, yanking shirts from hangers and books from shelves.
My mother and I once filled up her station wagon and my Honda, and then proceeded to my father’s work place, the post office, to load purchases into his pickup truck. We then went back for more things. Late in the afternoon, we finished and arrived home to model our finds for one another.
After Mom died, I found a lot of the clothes in plastic bins. I don’t recall her ever wearing some of it. I selected a few things to keep and wear. The rest went to the easy drop-off at Goodwill.
I didn’t go back to the sale for a while. I saw the signs in front of the church. Sale today. I looked away. It hurt that my mother was gone. It hurt that she didn’t go more places with me. It hurt that the one thing we did together was forever gone.
A New Thing
At first, Jennifer would not go with me. Used clothing wasn’t her thing. I invited other people. I think I expected something to be the same when we went, but nothing was the same. The gap was evident. Unenthused, I bought little, and found little joy.
A few years ago, Jennifer discovered the delight in getting good, used clothing for a song. She met me at the sale. Now she plans for it every year.
I cannot say the event is the same. And the bag sale is now $2. But I’ve got a friend who walks with me when grief mingles with joy. Jennifer stands in the gap.
At the sale this month, she found a like-new oversized pink purse. Half off! She held it up to me and flashed a huge toothy grin – like my mother’s. I couldn’t resist Jennifer’s delight. Her joy was mine.
Is there a place or event you are avoiding? Might you reclaim it in a transformative way? Who is the friend who might help you do that? What qualities do they hold that help fill the gap death left?
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