The following is a guest post written by one of my very closest friends, Amanda Bell.
The past two weeks have been some of the most devastating weeks of my life. On Labor Day, 2014, I helped one of my closest friends give her husband a tattoo he’d been wanting for years on his right wrist, with a sharpie marker. My friend and I tucked her into bed next to him, wrapped his arm around her, and left them alone together. Less than five minutes later the Lord took him home.
Five days prior to that day, Jayson had surgery to remove a brain tumor. He had the very same surgery four years ago when they unexpectedly discovered a tumor. Four years ago surgery went well, the tumor was benign, and life went on. In July of this year an MRI discovered the tumor had returned. On Wednesday, August 27th, surgery went well. There were a few small pieces of the tumor they were unable to get out, but it was considered a successful surgery. Jay was eating, talking, laughing, and walking by that night. He even felt well enough for a visit from his six year old daughter the next day. Then things began to change. He became violently ill and was in unbearable pain. The next day they discovered that he was having some abnormal bleeding and swelling in his brain. They also got the devastating news that this tumor was cancerous, and aggressive. And within hours he was hit by a seizure so violent that is stopped his heart twice and he had to be put in a medically induced coma. For the next three days we slowly watched our friend slip away. And then he was gone.
The following days were a blur. Planning for Jay’s service, getting pictures and belongings together, financial planning, appointment scheduling, and trying to comfort Kelly and the girls the best we knew how. Kelly never ceased to amaze me with her strength and faith. Even in the depths of unimaginable pain, she has walked with strength and grace. She praised God in a darkness I can’t imagine, and through watching her I’ve been able to witness what true faith looks like.
I wasn’t always so strong, and I wasn’t always so Christ-like. I had some moments of ridiculous peace that were clearly from the Holy Spirit, but I’ve also had despair, immense sadness, and extreme anger. One afternoon while I was getting ready for Jay’s service, a well-meaning friend stopped me to offer condolences. He had seen the events of the past few days on Facebook. With good intentions, he looked at me and said, ‘Don’t worry, things will get back to normal in a few days’. I bit my lip, forced a smile, and walked away. But the words rang in my ears. ‘Back to normal in a few days’. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe, and like throwing up. The conversation was short, but the words have been on repeat in my mind for days.
Because he had inadvertently vocalized my worst fears – the exact opposite of the harsh reality we face. Things will never get back to normal, this side of heaven. There will be a new and different normal, some day, but normal will never look like it did. There’s no normal when a wife doesn’t have her husband, and two girls don’t have their daddy. Sure, the chaos of planning a memorial service will subside, but once the busyness subsides, real life sets in, and there’s nothing normal or okay about real life at the moment.
All week long I’ve milled this over. Even though it broke my heart, I knew what my friend meant. I’m sure it was something along the lines of ‘things will calm down and it won’t be so hectic’, or something, and I’m sure his intentions were not to be insensitive. But I can’t move past it. Those words hold a dangerous warning.
Because the truth is, for the rest of us, we could potentially get back to some sort of normal. We could go on with life, missing Jay when we allow ourselves to think about it, and thinking what a shame it is that Kelly is now a widow at age 32, and that a 6 and 2-year-old little girl don’t have a daddy. We could tell ourselves that there isn’t anything we can do for our friend, and that we don’t want to overstep our boundaries, so we will give her some space while she grieves and maybe send an occasional text to let her know we are praying for her.
But for our friend, there is no normal. Her partner of the last fourteen years made it to Heaven before her. And while she rejoices for him, she is faced with the reality of raising two girls on one income as a single mom. While she struggles through her own grief she has to parent her daughters through theirs. There’s nothing normal about that.
So after soul searching and ugly crying and seeking Jesus for days, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t ever want to get ‘back to normal’. Please God don’t let me ever get back to a normal where I take the people who are most dear to me for granted. I want a new normal.
I don’t want to waste time being irritated with my husband over things that don’t matter. I’m going to make it right. Now.
I don’t want to rush bedtimes with my babies. I’m going to soak in every second.
I don’t want to waste time on social media. I’m going to get face to face with those who matter most.
I don’t want to let insecurity hold me back. I’m going to embrace life fully.
I don’t want fear of awkwardness to stop me from sharing the Gospel of Jesus with people who are desperate to hear it. I’m going to be brave.
I don’t want to worry more about what people think of me than what the Lord thinks of me. I’m going to believe truth.
I don’t want to hide away because I’m afraid of what someone might say. I’m going to reach out, and be bold.
I don’t want to live in maybe, someday, or what if. I’m going to start today.
My friend, Jayson, lived his life for the glory of the Lord. He loved big, smiled bigger, and changed people’s lives. He impacted more people and won more souls to Christ in his 32 years on earth than some people do in 90. For the honor of my friend, and for the sake of the gospel, I pray things never get back to normal. I’m ready to embrace the new normal. And it starts now.