When my sister and Chad moved to Akron over ten years ago, they settled into a little community of people who were simply delightful. Hilarious. Generous. Helpful. Every time we visited, we met another new and friendly face, or a pair of them.
After they bought their first house on Marvin Avenue (note: they’ve owned 3 on that street by now), it required some major renovations, starting with a bathroom. My dad and JJ came over one Saturday to assist, and Chad called a buddy. At one point, they needed to get an old, heavy cast-iron bathtub out of a bathroom and as the men stood and discussed best options – as a good Wingfield would – Chad’s friend Ricky, a burly man over 6 foot tall and 200 pounds, simply pulled it out. From the bathroom he called, “hey guys, where do you want this?”
We’ve told that story countless times, my dad in nothing short of awe that a man could single-handedly remove such a large, heavy, bulky item.
As time and friendship often does, things changed. These particular friends faded into other circles, while newer friends with school and church proximity floated in. Every once in a while I would hear from Angie about the old friends, she would bring me up to speed on new children, jobs, and events.
Now, he’s gone. This friend wasn’t well, but this wasn’t supposed to happen. Not now, not yet, not like this. Not with so many young children at home. Not with so much youth left in his own soul.
I grieve with this family and their loss of husband, dad, brother and son. I grieve with my sister and their community of families at their loss of a good man, a good friend. And I grieve with the world, which lives with such uncertainty. Sometimes it’s downright painful to come face to face with our mortality, our lack of guarantees.
At this stage in life, we’re regularly celebrating the welcoming of a new life as families expand; a stark contrast to the brevity of life. We see these young things, and the years of toddlerhood drone on into neverending nothingness of potty training and naptime prison. Then, suddenly, they have spelling words. I’ve been told the whole thing just picks up steam from there and basically you blink and they’re married.
Somehow, the short years of long days fool us into believing that we have all the time in the world. I think this is why the particular pain of losing young people stings so badly. These frozen years of tedium will not last forever, yet neither will we.
I’m a resurrection gal. I believe there’s something on the other side; life isn’t a string of moments that suddenly ends with nothingness. I’m an earthy gal, too. I believe that life, here, matters. If it didn’t, then death wouldn’t leave such a wound on the living.
As I sit in the sadness with these friends, my hope is that our grief will help us honor life. Regret comes easily in the early hours – we should have called, we should have talked; we should have tried harder or helped more. But don’t let fear and regret be the loudest voices.
I hope we grasp life with two hands and give it a firm shake, rather than waving as it walks across the room. And, I hope we do the same with the hands of our friends. Give them a hug, a call, a smile – not out of fear that it could be the last, but in celebration of another opportunity to do so.