I don’t remember exactly when I first stumbled on her Instagram account. A month or two ago, maybe a little more. You know how it goes: After clicking on a friend’s post, you follow the tags and links until somehow you land on the profile of a random stranger you’ve never met or even heard of. And you end up spending half a day reading all the details of her personal life like some kind of weird internet stalker.
[Please tell me I’m not the only one.]
All stalker tendencies aside, this time I connected with the woman on the other side of my phone screen not because of her pictures, fashion sense, or career adventures. But because of her hard story:
At this time, my body is too weak, too burdened, too depleted, and my veins are too overworked to continue on with chemo. Hospice will help me be as comfortable as possible, and at home with friends + family, during this time. Which is everything …
The pain hits every night. The meds help me sleep through it. And your love carries + sustains us, as our Savior, in His perfect timing, leads me home.
Chemo. Hospice. Home. The words landed with painful familiarity. It wasn’t all that long ago that I well knew the first word, and wondered if I would soon be acquainted with the others. I’d tried to imagine them, wondered how I would handle their reality should they become my own. With gratitude, I now celebrate the truth that I can not yet own them. Even so, it’s a sober celebration, knowing my day is coming, one way or the other.
Perhaps this is why I felt such a connection with a stranger. After spending so many years facing death’s ultimatum, I now wanted to watch how this woman, so much like me, would wrangle with it.
And so I did, from the moment I first stumbled on her life in full Instagram color until two weeks ago.
When she went Home.
You can learn a lot by watching someone say goodbye. Granted, social-media-close isn’t the same as face-to-face-close. I’ve held space both ways, and they land on the heart a bit differently. Social media allows you to click through, move on to something more comfortable, less likely to keep you awake in the dark, should the watching grow gut-wrenching.
But I didn’t want to move on. I wanted to keep vigil, even if from a distance. I wanted to enter into the pain with her, with her husband and children, with her friends who ached at the thought of living without her. And I wanted to honor her battle with life and death—and honor her steadfast faith through it all—with my silent watching.
Why? Because facing death teaches us how to live. And facing death teaches us how to die, when our own goodbye comes.
Sunday we’ll celebrate Easter, that day when Roman soldiers found a garden tomb empty. We’ll focus on the Resurrection, celebrating the Good News that Jesus overcame death so we could live. Rightfully so. We’ll exhale with relief that in the moment of our deepest dark, Light has come.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
But don’t scroll through the days leading up to Sunday too quickly. Don’t move so fast past the ache to get to the joy.
Maundy Thursday Jesus washed his disciples feet, prayed alone in Gethsemane’s garden, and held out his wrists to His enemies when his close friend turned Him in with a kiss. And Good Friday? It wasn’t good at all. After an unjust trial and a series of horrific tortures few of us could endure, Jesus died on a cross, abused, humiliated and alone, abandoned even by the Father he loved. Then Saturday, the darkest day of all. The day between death and life, when the full impact of Jesus’ crucifixion fell on those who loved Him most, who’d given everything to follow Him. Saturday was a day without Hope, when the Light was swallowed by a complete and devastating dark.
Hold vigil on those days, my friend. Allow yourself to feel the depth of dark, the weight of death, the fear of that moment when all hope is gone. Sit there, in all the discomfort, knowing that a day is coming when you’ll need to say goodbye, too.
Why? Because facing death—Jesus’ death and yours—teaches us about life.
Then, when Sunday morning comes—and it will come!— walk back to the grave one more time. While the world wakes up to Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs, look through your tears at the tomb.
Do you see it?
It’s empty! EMPTY!
Hope isn’t dead at all. In fact, He is alive!
And that means, we can hold space with life and death, even with strangers on Instagram. Because even when you and I face death, ultimately we get LIFE.