Death of a loved one is an amputation. I fear the loss of memory. No photograph can truly recall the beloved’s smile. Occasionally, a glimpse of someone walking down the street, someone alive, moving, in action, will hit with a pang of genuine recollection. But our memories, precious as they are, still are like sieves, and the memories inevitably leak through. — Madeleine L’Engle

Jody, my best friend for 20 years, was gone, the most unexpected turn in my nearly fifty years of living. I was left to grieve. And I discovered that grief had a way of morphing. Grief did not look or feel the same from moment to moment or day to day. I cried constantly despite my efforts not to. I felt mentally numb. And I battled for my faith.

I was in full-time ministry. I should have been fine. I knew where Jody was-in heaven. I’d see her again. She was fully whole now and would never even want to come back. I knew these things. I had taught and believed them for years. I should have been fine. But I was not fine and found it hard to imagine I would ever be fine again. Life lost all its color, all its laughter. Everything seemed bleak shades of grey and black. Hopeless. Vague. “Loss strips us of the props we rely on for our well-being. It knocks us off our feet and puts us on our backs. In the experience of loss, we come to the end of ourselves.” Indeed.

In the weeks and months that passed I gradually came to realize I could not/would not abandon the God who had loved me, forgiven me, and comforted me for over thirty years. I knew him too well. I cherished our relationship too much to throw it away like the flower arrangements that faded with age. I read books on grief and talked with others who were at different places in the grief process, all of whom helped me realize the importance of faith. I learned that mine was not a perfect faith, but it was one that would prevail.

The battle was difficult and the lessons hard to articulate. But I will try to share what I’ve learned with you.

Tragedy and loss can never be fully anticipated. I was not prepared for my loss then, and I will never be prepared for future losses. I am simply not the same as I was when Jody was alive. There is a hole in life-the place Jody occupied-that will always be hollow and void. I wasn’t finished doing life with her. I wish she were still here. My soul, however, has grown in the process.

I have had to learn to live with the principle I call co-existence. I have come to grips with the reality that loss and life, sorrow and joy, emptiness and hope live side-by-side with me now. All these things co-exist.

The unseen, eternal things mean more to me now. God is simply more a part of my life. I’ve been forced to grapple with his love and his goodness in light of my great loss. “Jody? You took Jody? You gave Jody and me this remarkable friendship. Why would you take it away?”

I’ve had to completely rethink God’s sovereignty. “Couldn’t you just have put your finger under that plane? It only missed getting over that mountain by a hundred feet! You did that kind of miracle in Idaho, why not in Arizona?” I have learned that not all of my questions will be answered and that the greatest tribute to my friend is to go on living full-on, full-out for God. It’s exactly what she would have wanted. Of this I am certain. He has been my Guide and my Captain, and he will take me through this great loss as well.

Copyright 2008 by Barbara Francis

Barbara Francis is the author of Unexpected Turns: Leaning into the Losses of Life (Expert Publishing, Inc., 2007), and publishes three monthly inspirational newsletters, Embraced, Devoted to Prayer and Prayer Page. For more information, please visit http://www.barbarafrancis.com/.

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Barbara Francis

A dynamic Bible teacher, Barbara makes the scriptures come alive and excels at relating biblical principles to everyday living. She loves helping people find hope by bringing Jesus into their actual lives, not the ones they wish they had. She is honest with her audience, encouraging them to be honest with themselves. Using humor and personal stories, she makes listeners feel as if she has read their personal journals or is speaking just to them. Barbara possesses the unique ability to speak truth and grace into people?s lives, no matter where the individuals are in their spiritual journeys. Barbara joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ in 1977. She is currently serving on the National Team for the Campus Ministry, giving focus to prayer on college campuses world-wide. In addition to campus ministry, Barbara has engaged audiences for nearly thirty years at hundreds of retreats and conferences in the United States, East Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and Central America. She also founded Koinonia, a twenty-five-yearold women's fellowship in Salt Lake City, Utah, dedicated to teaching God?s word to women and reaching out to the community in a creative, evangelistic manner. Books by Barbara Francis include Unexpected Turns: Leaning into the Losses of Life and Following Him When I Can't See the End of the Road. She has also written three Bible study guides, An Invitation to Eavesdrop: Finding Yourself in the Psalms; Private Conversations: Reflections on the Prayer Life of Jesus; and Following Him When I Can't See the End of the Road: A Personal Study Guide, all of which are available by contacting the author. Barbara writes three inspiring monthly devotions enjoyed by thousands via email, entitled Embraced, Devoted to Prayer, and Prayer Pages. Married in 1974, Barbara and her husband, Bob, have two grown children and two grandchildren. To contact Barbara, order books or Bible study guides, sign up to receive Barbara's monthly e-mail devotions, or schedule a speaking engagement, please send email communications to: Barbara.Francis@uscm.org. Or write to: Campus Crusade for Christ Attention: Barbara Francis 100 Lake Hart Drive, Dept. 2500 Orlando, FL 32832

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