Ten days ago, I received the awful news that a close friend of mine had suffered a brain aneurysm and been rushed to hospital.
This girl is someone I have loved since before my nearly-18-year-old was born.
She is an incredibly talented artist – shortlisted for the Archibald Prize just a few years ago. She has a truly remarkable ability to capture goodness and beauty on a canvas.
But to me, she’s just one of my people. She gets me and doesn’t think I’m strange, which always seems to me like such a bonus.
She was teaching an art class when she collapsed and had a seizure. As the Lord would have it, her doctor was in that class, so she received immediate medical attention. Rushed to hospital, she was operated on quickly and, since then, has experienced something of an ideal recovery from a precarious position.
This morning, I awoke to a video she posted online late last night. “I’m alive!” she told us. She showed us the tube acting as a drain from her brain and said she would need to learn how to look after it herself so she could get out of hospital.
She also let us know that suggestions were welcome for figuring out what to do with the bald patch she now had where her head had been shaved.
I messaged her to say how pleased I was to see she was alive and tell her I loved her.
“We’re alive, Kylie!” she responded. “Love you, too.”
My heart was so full of rejoicing. We had prayed and God was faithful. My friend was alive.
Our Eternity News zoom meeting was full of budget discussions. I almost interrupted the work chat to tell my workmates about her recovery – my heart was brimming – but decided it would hold. I could restrain myself to wait for a better-timed moment.
But two hours later, I heard that another friend had unexpectedly passed away. This girl was not someone I was super close to, though we’d talked many times. But she was somebody who was a vital part of our church community for years.
Kind, inclusive, generous in spirit – she really was loved by all. The kind of person who was everyone’s cheerleader – always celebrating the success of others and encouraging people from the word. She obviously spent a lot of time reading the Bible and in prayer, and had allowed it to transform her.
The cause of this friend’s death is yet unknown. Since it was unexpected and she reported being tired yesterday, some are speculating it could be a brain aneurysm. Regardless, she is lost to God’s green earth and we didn’t even get a chance to pray before the battle was over.
There are some days when it feels like death is around every corner …
I told my twelve-year-old son about it a couple of hours ago. Just now he came back into my room and asked, “Does it seem like more people are dying this year?”
They are, of course, with the coronavirus pandemic stretching across the earth. But I knew his question wasn’t informed by a global perspective as much as it was by our own family’s loss of his aunt to cancer in June.
I told him I didn’t think we have known more people who have died this year. But, I explained, when he was younger, I wouldn’t have mentioned these things to him. Plus, with us having lost his aunty, and then with coronavirus making everything so strange and scary as so many people around the world die, we are all probably thinking more about death and feeling more worried than usual.
The answer seemed to make sense to him, for now. I know what he means, though. There are some days when it feels like death is around every corner – regardless of whether we are in the midst of a pandemic or not.
This afternoon, I read a good chunk of Ecclesiastes. It’s one of my favourite biblical books. My poetic side and enneagram-four-self really appreciates its author’s wholehearted commitment to wallowing in the pain of the human experience.
“Yes!” I found myself affirming its writer today. “The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong … time and chance happen to them all… no one knows when their hour will come… it is all meaningless!”
Yet within its pages, I also found this excellent advice for these oh-so-cliched uncertain times in our frustratingly uncertain world:
“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed a in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.
“Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”
And so we keep on, I guess.