On August 14, 2010 we said goodbye to my dear friend Claire, who died of brain cancer at age 35, after a ten-year battle.
A few of us got together on the one-year anniversary this summer to recall some favorite memories. We laughed and cried and occasionally sat silent in speechless grief. Such a beautiful life taken from us far too quickly. The loss still stings.
She touched us all in powerful, delightful, challenging ways. She was stubborn (a vibrant redhead, at that!), she was smart, she was creative, and best of all, she was a tireless and faithful friend.
The next day my pastor preached on the story of Joseph in Genesis, primarily from chapters 45-50. He recalled much of Joseph’s story, one full of privilege, betrayal, imprisonment—and redemption. In the midst of many unjust and painful experiences, Joseph remained faithful to God—no doubt still shaking his fist at times in sadness and confusion.
I have heard this story many times. Heck, I’ve taught on it more than once! But that morning as I listened, what I noticed was a poignant time of remembrance, grief and reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers, who betrayed him so many years before.
Imagine this scene:
Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace…. [later in the chapter] Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him. (Genesis 45)
Weeping and kisses. Laughter and agony. That’s what happened as we remembered Claire; we both giggled over her ornery ways and bawled as we looked at the giant hole she left in her departure.
As I have gotten older I have discovered that so much of life is filled with pendulum swings between heartache and hope. We cannot really ride this rollercoaster without being willing to go on both the highs and lows. And truth be told, the pain makes the joy all the sweeter.
An old hymn, newly arranged, sums up these profound mood swings. It is titled Jesus I Come. Listen to the lyrics more than once. The depth of spiritual truth in them is dazzling, but better still, they put words to things I can barely utter.
I still miss you Claire. We ache over your absence. You are loved, and not forgotten.
Jesus, I come.
Join the Conversation
Have you lost someone like Claire? How has that loss affected your journey with Jesus?
Are you able to say in the midst of your own pain, “Jesus, I come”? Why or why not?
Kelly Soifer is the Director of Recruiting and Leadership Development for the Free Methodist Church in Southern California. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Westmont College in the Religious Studies Department.