One year ago today, my dear friend Margaret died suddenly in her sleep. It is presumed she died from an epileptic seizure (or possibly two seizures back-to-back) while sleeping. Margaret suffered from epilepsy all of her life. She was extremely intelligent, and she hated the way her illness limited her and kept her from being able to do the things she dreamed of doing in life. Despite her frustration with living in a body that would not cooperate, Margaret was endlessly kind. She was like a ray of sunshine on a gloomy day. She brought joy with her wherever she went. She was beautiful and amazingly creative and funny and a lot of fun to be around. There are several reminders of Margaret in my home. Most of them are gifts she gave to my children. She loved children, and every time I saw Margaret she had books or toys or stuffed animals for my girls. A year after her death, I still think of her several times a week, and I still cry when I do.
My faith gets me through the hard things in life, and really, through life every day. It is a comfort at all times, even when the events of life don’t make sense to me. There are two Bible verses in particular that bring me consolation when I think of Margaret. The first is a verse my brother shared with me shortly after we found out about her death. Revelations 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” This verse gives me great hope. My sweet friend often suffered greatly in the 36 years she lived, but I know that she suffers no longer.
The second verse is one that comforts me every time I think of Margaret. It is the shortest verse in the Bible (a little junior high youth group trivia for you), but to me it is one of the most profound. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” To put this verse in context, Jesus had just learned of the death of his good friend, Lazarus. I remember hearing this story many times as a child, and the focus of the story was always on the miracle Jesus performed when he raised Lazarus from the dead. Because I focused on the miracle, I always overlooked the significance of this one, little verse until last year. Jesus Christ was fully human, but he was also fully God. In the moment of losing his dear friend, he wept. The word “wept” implies strong emotions. It’s more than just crying. Instead of simply telling those around him, “Hang on, I got this,” he wept. He allowed himself to experience the pain of losing someone, the agony of the emptiness felt when you realize that you can no longer talk to, laugh with, or embrace this person whom you love. After weeping, Jesus displayed his own divinity by raising Lazarus from the dead, but for a short moment he was a man, grieving over the loss of a friend. I think what is most reassuring to me about this verse is the realization that the God of the Universe has experienced the pain and sadness that I feel. He can truly empathize with me as I mourn the loss of a beloved friend, and that gives me immense comfort and peace.