Perhaps sometimes there really is no silver lining. Sometimes something is just plain terrible. The unexpected ending of a life, a relationship. However, that doesn’t make that thread any less important in your tapestry. It’s still there and even though dark and gloomy doesn’t feel good, it’s part of the picture, it serves a purpose, whether or not it’s something we can understand. The story I’m about to tell you is like that– it’s sad, I don’t understand it, and neither will you, but I did learn something and that’s what I need to tell you about.
In 2000, my friend Nate passed away– suddenly and tragically, just days after his high school graduation.
Nate and I grew up together. He lived just two houses down the street and I think he spent as much time at my house as he did at his own. His parents were my parents and mine were his. I went to family reunions with him, we played GirlTalk with his cousins, and he played Ninja Turtles with my brother when my sister and I were making him do too many girly things. Our families were incredibly close and we all loved Nate. When he died, we were stunned.
There are a lot of things I remember about Nate– the last time I saw him, his big bright smile and blue and white striped shirt, the celebration of his life, his beautiful life, at his funeral, his football number (64), the day we fished for catfish (and I actually ate it!), and the first time I laid eyes on Janet’s beautiful furniture (she was the most sophisticated woman I had ever met)– but none of these things are as poignant as the wake. That wake will stay with me forever and ever, for a number of reasons.
First, the line. The line to see Nate wrapped around and around the building. So many incredibly sad people, lined up to say goodbye, lined up to tell CJ and Janet how sorry they were, lined up to shed some tears. It was a line from here to eternity. I have no idea how long we stood in that line. But I know how I felt every moment. Scared.
I remember the body. How it was only the body because Nate was not there. He looked like Nate, he was dressed like Nate, but it obviously wasn’t Nate. It was more like a wax museum statue of Nate. His soul, his self, the thing that made him Nate wasn’t there.
I remember my parents. They. were. so. sad. I remember my dad crying and touching Nate’s face. I remember my mom hugging Janet while Janet cried, “Beth, our baby! Our baby is gone, Beth!”
And I remember being alone with my grief for just a moment. Tears streaming down my face. Recognizing Nate in that coffin and knowing that this was real. I remember the way it felt for my parents to be busy dealing with their own grief and unable to deal with mine. And it was hard because I needed someone to comfort me.
And then someone did. Two someones did.
First, the nurse.
She was a tiny little lady in a pristine white nurse’s uniform, complete with the little white hat. She had a box of kleenexes and she handed me one. She hugged me and said, “It’s ok, baby girl, you let it out now.” And I did, I let it all out– the tears, the snot, the sobs. I couldn’t stop and I didn’t care. I just needed to be sad. She was an angel on Earth, I wonder if she knows that.
Second, the judge.
Nate’s grandpa, Janet’s dad, was a judge. He was a big, tall, regal-looking man and if I gave you three guesses as to his profession, judge would have been one of them. You just knew he was important and decisive. And he was the second person to hug me at Nate’s wake. And he told me, and I will never ever forget what he said as long as I live:
“God made use like teapots. Crying is how we release the steam.”
Yes, God made us like teapots. And crying is how we release the steam.
Have you ever heard a more beautiful analogy? Have you ever just needed a good cry? Have things ever gotten to the point where crying was the only option, nothing else would do? Because God made us like teapots…
I spent days, weeks, a good long while completely stunned and a lot of that time is very blurry. I remember coming home from work and my parents asking me to sit down while they told me the news. And I remember crying. I remember the skirt I wore to the funeral. It wasn’t black. I remember being at Pioneer football field. I remember the song those four guys sang. I remember being sad. But most of all, I remember that God made us like teapots, and crying is how we release the steam.
Click here and scroll down to read Nate’s thoughts on living life with no regrets.