Brittany: Living the Happy/Sad
Updated: Jan 10, 2021
I sat down to write this post two months ago and couldn't do it. I wasn't emotionally ready, the wound was still too fresh. I started to write words and they didn't sound right. I could've avoided and passed by and wrote about something else, but I couldn't do that either. I was at an impasse. Moving forward in my writing wasn't going to happen. I still don't know that I have the right words to honour Brittany, and I know the wound isn't healed, but sometimes you move forward anyway. Sometimes you start before you are ready. Grief is an ongoing process, I recognize that, but I also know that for most us life moves on without the same impact of those who were close with Brittany. Where my heart has broken the last 3 months is for Luke and the kids and their happy/sad. They've constructed a beautiful system of acknowledging the void in their life and giving permission to still allow happiness in the day to day.
Again I am sad about losing a friend, but I recognize that I was a peripheral friend. My interactions were on the outskirts. She was not my person, or my go to in crisis, but I know she was for so many others. She was a rock of stability and logic. An emotional support to everyone she interacted with, even in her weakness. She cared deeply about helping those around her and giving everyone her attention, time and effort to make their lives a little brighter. If the school were still open I know the Library would be named in her honour for all of the hours of time and love she put into it. That was a piece of who she was. Dedicated to a project or fundraising to edify and make life better for the next generation...or her peers. My life was better because although I wasn't in her inner circle, she never made me feel like I wasn't. I would look forward to seeing her in the hall and chatting. Brittany was always good to chat about things with. Both being at the school, I teaching, and Brittany with a child enrolled, we had reconnected after years of not crossing paths. I am older than Britt and part of why we weren't close is that we were just in different generations. But I have known her since we were both young, as we attended the same church. She was in Sunday School when I was in youth group. Then in my subbing days I even taught her a couple of times. But now, life as grown ups, age gaps don't seem to matter as much. Different life experiences had each given us wisdom that the other could benefit and learn from and I loved sharing those. But what I truly loved was vision casting in the hallway. We had a lot of great ideas, the two of us, and I grieve that we'll never see them come to pass.
When she first got sick, my heart sank. And I'm going to be honest and say that the devil will use being the peripheral friend against you. Thoughts of, "who are you to help," "You are nobody to her," "There are other people to step up who are closer," But here's the funny thing about bad news. Everyone reacts differently. Some withdraw, some get closer, some freeze. I knew in my heart I could do something small. Lasagne. Whenever I thought of them or they had room in the freezer I'd make a couple and bring them over. What I thought would be quick drop off, often ended in a much longer conversation. I would pray for her. Believing for the miracle. But what I really learned in that time was that level or depth of relationship doesn't matter. People can support people in any circumstance, for any reason. People on the fringes, or people in the core can all rally for the same person. We saw it in our community with the balloons popping up everywhere in support of the Rechsteiners. (What a beautiful gesture) What Britt taught me and what the world needs more of is unity, love and support. I know it's cliche, but cliches are cliches for a reason...they are true.
Recently, I rewatched The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies. This time around different things highlighted in bigger ways. It also struck me how much of a genius JRR Tolkien truly was. He not only wrote an adventure, he wrote with an emotional and spiritual depth to that adventure that is astounding. In a conversation between Gandalf and Frodo Frodo says, "I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened." I don't think the ring is a parallel to cancer. But I do think everyone who has lost someone wishes none of it had happened. We never want to lose anyone for any reason. But anyone who has travelled the cancer road can make a lot of parallels to Frodo's journey. There are the Sams who are loyally with you from beginning to end, and the unexpected Smeagols that show up to help along the way. Sometimes the journey is in the shadows of the forest, or in the harshness Mordor, always relentlessly being hunted by this thing you carry. But in that there are also these peaceful moments of reprieve, sometimes for just a moment the theme music lightens and Frodo feels the comfort of knowing Sam will never leave him and that he can do this. Britt cultivated a life full of Sams. Her husband, her family, her high school crew, her dance mom crew and many more. But those of us Smeagols we also knew her compassion, and kindness, even when we didn't deserve it. She'd trust us all to carry on the journey, sometimes leading the way when she was too weak to do so. (The parallel falls a little short with the Gollum side of Smeagol, if you know LOTR you know)
The latter portion of the Gandalf quote says this," All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." What I appreciate about Britt, is that what she did with the time given to her is more than some in three life times. What I appreciate about Luke and their whole family is that rather than being all consumed and hiding, they took was was given to them and made it into an adventure, specifically their summer trip. Do I wish none of this had happened....of course I do. But when decision are no longer in our control what are we doing with what we are given? Are we following her lead and doing all we can with what we've been given or are we hiding because we are paralyzed by the fear of going out the front door. Frodo had recalled Bilbos words at the beginning of his expedition, “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Frodo went on despite not knowing where he'd be swept off to, so did Britt. She lived an adventurous life of travel, volunteering, and working a job she enjoyed, and throwing her love into friendships, marriage, and her children. My prayer is that we too go on the adventure of life.
My prayer is that your love grows greater for those around you and that because you are deeply loved and were deeply loved by Britt that you wouldn't fear going out the front door. For those of you who didn't know Brittany, she was truly a treasure, but my hope for you is that whatever your grief, you will find constructive ways to carry on your adventure. That there will be a new sunrise, and that you can follow Luke's lead holding both the happy and the sad, and know that both are okay. I will leave with another JRR Tolkien quote