The phone rang before breakfast. Nothing unusual. It was one of my best friends, who often calls in the morning before our homeschooling days fully swing into action. When I answered, she immediately asked:
"Have you checked your email yet?"
No, I hadn't.
She named another close, mutual friend. "Her dad died last night."
And everything changed.
Birth, death, emergencies. These are the things for which we don't schedule or pencil into our calendars. Even "planned" C-sections happen when they happen; it's really difficult to custom-order life passages. So when something unexpected bursts in on the scene, we're at once surprised, knocked off balance, discombobulated. And if that something is a loss, we're also shocked. Grieved.
Four of us got together via phone communication and discussed the best ways to help. Our dear friend and her family had a long drive ahead of them, decisions to make, responsibilities (of which they have many) to hand off or complete before their departure, and a lot on their minds. So we got snacks for the car trip and a gas card to help with travel expenses. We made several meals: muffins and fruit salad for breakfasts; soups; chicken salad, ham salad, and homemade bread for lunches; and several casseroles for immediate suppers or to freeze for later.
And we prayed.
I did my best to orchestrate something of a school day for my girls while in a cooking frenzy, with only minor success. But I was also aware of the life experience this episode provided for my children. Things happen in this world that surprise us with turmoil and throw our plans into disarray. They not only upset our schedule, they change our perspective about what's most important at that moment. And we respond, not with annoyance, but with grace.
Our schedules and our plans necessarily take on the role of lesser things as we gather around the one who's suffering.
We pray, and we help. We help, and we pray.