My friend Marybeth died in the autumn of 2015 after a 2 year illness (with a wild roller coaster of ups/downs, hope, loss, and resignation).
Months later, her family and some of her closest friends gathered together to celebrate her life.
It was heartening to be with so many people who loved and supported her through her illness, and who loved and supported her from her childhood to the end of her days. Being together to share stories, songs, laughs, and tears; it was bittersweet and wonderful.
But what amazed me – and moved me in a way that was surprising – was the appearance of some very unexpected faces at the memorial. It was a small event, set up by her daughters, and they’d invited those closest to her. But somehow, word got out, and a handful of people from our high school class showed up anyway.
Each time one of these people arrived, I was nearly reduced to tears. They hadn’t been particularly close to her in her adult life, but they wanted to be there as a show of support to Marybeth’s family and closest friends, and it was a surprising and heartfelt gesture.
As days and years tick by, and we all lose people we love, it becomes increasingly clear to me that the simple gesture of showing up for one another – literally showing up: taking the time to show our faces, give a hug or a word of support – is so fucking meaningful and helpful.
It is a big world, and a small one too. And extending a hand, a smile, and a reassuring moment means the world.
Loss sucks. We have all experienced it in varying degrees, and we surely will again … as long as we’re still on the planet.
Loss and pain are inevitable.
But showing up? That small gesture is everything.