I received news tonight, that a beautiful, brave young woman I knew back in an old church I attended, died at 1:30 pm yesterday. This young woman was the daughter of the pastor: a pastor who made it clear that I was no longer welcome in his life, and in the life of his church. Because of that, I had no real contact with this girl since I left his church. But I watched from afar, smiling over posted facebook photos of her wedding day, a mere six weeks ago. Six weeks as a new bride! Those kinds of things seem only to happen in tragic romance movies. One never expects that in real life! I had never met her husband…maybe once or twice I saw him in passing, as he had siblings in the church whom I knew, but…I feel so very out of touch.
When I told my husband, swallowing the lump in my throat and blinking vacantly at my cellphone, after telling me he was sorry, he asked me: “Were you close?”
Not really. You see, this church was all about being ‘family.’ It was about transparency, and strongly encouraged (or perhaps enforced) close ties with one another, and not really any other church. Going to another pastor for advice or prayer, unless that pastor was directly connected in some way with the denomination, was frowned upon. As a result, I spent most of my waking hours with people from that church, and of course, she was one of them.
She was only two years my senior. She had Lupus, and was often very sick because of it. She was tiny and frail looking, but strong…so very strong. She had such a beautiful smile, and a very soft heart. She had spunk though: you wouldn’t want to mess with her. She loved to dress up in hilarious costumes, and she didn’t care what anyone else thought. She followed her heart, and danced to the beat of her own drum. I admired her for those things. she was the first one to welcome me to the church, and after she left, she still occasionally saw me around town, and she always smiled and waved. She could have pretended to ignore me, especially because of her dad, but she never did. She probably never knew it, but that meant the world to me.
I can’t really explain why my heart is broken, why there is a lump in my throat that I just can’t swallow. Perhaps it is because I had to find out via facebook, from reading someone elese’s status in my newsfeed. I wasn’t told directly, I had to piece it together myself. Somehow, it makes my heart hurt that I can’t reach out to the pastor and his family, to tell them how very sorry I am. That I am praying for them, and that I fear for them. I am afraid that as this pastor has done before in less personal situations, he will blame his congregation. I worry that as he blamed his congregation in the past for the miscarriage of a young woman in his church, (saying it happened because the church didn’t ‘cover them in prayer enough,’), he will blame them all the more, because it is his daughter. I wish that I could do more, but I cannot. He will not listen to me, nor will he allow me to say anything of value to anyone else in his family. I suppose this saddens me because I still care. This pastor is a person I grew up around. He was friends with my dad, once upon a time. I care, and at least on some level, I still wish I had his approval. I still wish I was in that inner circle, offering comfort.
Another part of my grief, is over the girl herself. Twenty seven is so young, especially after only six weeks of marriage. While everyone talks about how Heaven is so wonderful, how it’s our real home…I can’t help but grieve that she never got to experience so many things. She never had a first anniversary, never had a child. Or maybe she wanted to go back to school, get a degree….I don’t know. But there was so much life left untouched. I can’t pretend to understand it. I read someone from her family’s statement, requesting that no one ask any questions (understandable,) and saying “It is what it is.”
Honestly, I wanted to scream at them, to shake them. It is what it is?! What does that even mean?! But I know they are grieving, far worse than I ever could for her. I know it is how they are coping. But I want to ask the big questions. I want to ask, “Why?” Even though I know I will probably never get an answer. I know the how: brain aneurysm. It was very sudden. But I still question, and I still wish she could have experienced so much more here on earth. Tonight, I am broken: my heart is broken, and I feel so many things. Guilt, for not keeping in better touch with her, despite who her father was. Regret and Sadness, that her father wants nothing to do with me. Even some anger, that I do not feel safe leaving notes for anyone in the church, because I worry there will be backlash. All I can do, is grieve, and pray. All I can do, is remember…and with those memories of her, come so many other ones, about the place that I left behind.