The story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all. ~Frederick Buechner

Strangely Comfortable


It was a rainy day, and chilly. I was hurrying back from Walgreen’s with my son’s prescription and a lot on my mind. As usual, I had a long list of things I had to do, but I also wasn’t dressed for the weather. I took the small side street that connects to an alley behind our building.

We often see each other in passing on this street, all us folks from the house, because it is the quickest way to the parking deck and the nearest store. We wave and exchange pleasantries, busy but happy to see one another, going about our days. I saw a friend, Randy, walking towards me, car keys in his hand. I remembered that he had just been in California at his father’s funeral.

“Welcome home!” I said, as he got closer. He looked tired. I gave him a hug. I am not a big hugger, in general. Randy and I are not super close, just good acquaintances. Our lives intersect somewhat, because he works in the coffee shop and I love coffee, and his youngest daughter and my oldest son are friends. He’s helped me out a few times with my car. Randy is a really good guy.

“So glad you’re back,” I say. Right away, Randy begins to tell me about his father’s death. He tells me how his father was a good man when he wasn’t drinking, but a violent and scary one when he was. How while his father was sober, Randy got a chance to know him, really know him, and that when his father had died the nurses said there was a light, that Jesus had been there for sure, angels to take him away, this hardened man who burned all his bridges and hurt the ones he loved the most.

It had started to rain, a cold drizzle that was hitting the back of my neck. My phone chimed and I knew someone was texting me. All was forgotten, though, as Randy talked about the healing and pain and sorrow that was all mixed together as he said goodbye to his father for the last time.

I knew he needed to say these words, because I am familiar with the need to speak the truth of pain felt, and recount what has meaning to the people who understand you best, the people you live and pray and eat with. Sometimes it’s like a recitation, a liturgy, and we are fortunate to have each other to hear our hearts. Because we live with each other and see everything from marital spats, embarrassing besetting sins, to neighbors wearing ratty bathrobes.

We are strangely and beautifully comfortable with one another’s pain.

People stepped around us on the sidewalk while Randy talked, and I listened to his sadness and the beauty of God all mixed up in it. The times he could see who his father would have been, wanted to be, and be comforted by God’s love for this sad and broken man. I had church on the sidewalk with my friend, honored to hear the story and blessed that I could let go of my own frantic scurrying for just a bit and remember that God is in us and all around us on a cold and rainy afternoon.

Rebecca Hill
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