Standing Knee Deep in the River & Dying of Thirst

Sometimes I think of all the times in this sweet life when I must have missed the affection I was being given. A friend of mine calls this “standing knee deep in the river and dying of thirst”.Robert Fulghum

Death provides a brutally effective way of finding out who leans in and who leans out when one of your beloveds dies. It exposes whether your family and close friends are willing to show up in a way that’s helpful and meaningful to you. Some of this behavior can be a surprise, some of it can be a shock.

One gift of a profound loss are the people you didn’t know well or didn’t know at all who show up in ways you never could have imagined…

  • My friends from Kaia FIT who didn’t know Jimmy or even that I was grieving his death when I joined and who decided on their own to wear yellow and make JimmySTRONG t-shirts and wristbands on the anniversary of his death. Many of them have become close friends, and as a group, they continue to honor and remember Jimmy every year.
  • Jimmy’s beloved high school Spanish teacher who became a close friend after she suffered her own tragic loss, shortly after Jimmy’s celebration of life and who somehow seems to know instinctively when I need some extra support or a note reminding me how much Jimmy meant to her.
  • Jimmy’s hospice nurse and social worker who joined our support system three months before Jimmy died, stayed with us for the final twelve hours of his life and became friends and pillars of support after his death.

In our worst moments, it’s easy to focus on the hurt – the friends who send meaningless texts – “Just checking to see how you are. Miss you!” and then can’t seem to make time on their busy calendar to get together. The family members who can’t be bothered to send a note or show up to our loved one’s memorial service or celebration of life. The parents at school or the co-workers who avoid us because they don’t know what to say so they don’t say anything.

But if we focus on the love, it’s there all around us. People who get it and know instinctively what to say and what we need. People care deeply and say the wrong thing sometimes but would do anything for us. They stand with us in the abyss, sharing the pain, holding us close, letting us cry, bringing us water.

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