I found out today that one of my dear friends has died. She left this mortal world suddenly, leaving behind a huge wake of pain, grief and unanswered questions. Patrice was my first mission companion. As an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I chose to serve an 18 month mission, far from my home and family, speaking a foreign language (it was a humility thing--I asked God to send me somewhere foreign that didn't speak Spanish, having just scraped painfully through a year of Spanish 1 in college--and He sent me to Los Angeles, Spanish speaking. It ended up great, and I loved it, but I would never have chosen it for myself). I paid for the chance to give up college and dating for a year and a half, and in return I got the most amazing life lessons possible.
A mission is a microcosm of life. You are with a companion (of the same gender) 24/7. You study together, teach together, do service together, do laundry together. Sometimes your companions become lifelong friends. Sometimes they are just endured. Hopefully, you learn important lessons about communication, about humility and life skills. The most important lessons you learn are about obedience to God, and becoming a Selfless Service to others as you try to become a true disciple of the Savior.
My mission prepared me for life, for marriage and for future service. I gained MANY wonderful things from it, but the sweetest blessings of all were the friendships I gained. Patrice and I were friends from the start--from day 1. We had so much in common, so much to talk about. We ended up serving together 3 times during our missions, and were room-mates, too.
While I was serving, my family moved across the country, so I ended up going "home" to a new state, new town, new friends. The miles and the years came between us, but we were still friends, even though we didn't talk much.
I was shocked to hear of her passing. I know that this mortal life is not the end of our existence. I know that we have so much to do after we leave this short session on earth--work and friendships and much, much more. However, I grieve for myself, for the talks we won't get to have, for the phone calls and the letters and the inspiration that I am going to miss.
I grieve for her family, left without her smile, trying to make sense of their new reality, left with ripples of pain, frustration and grief. I hope they know that even when they feel mad at God, that He keeps loving them, just the way I loved my small angry toddler when they furiously yelled that they hated me. I knew that they were hungry, tired, and having a meltdown, and that as soon as their little bodies had what they needed, they would be able to feel love again. God is big enough to take it. When we are sad, angry, hostile, horrible--He still loves us, and He loves us even through our pain.
There are no words that I can say that will take their hurt away. I have gone through the lonely and painful path of grief. I can't even fix the stupid, painful things people will say as they try to help ("Everything happens for a reason", "She's in a better place now" "Jesus needed her more than you did") the things that make you want to scream and throw things. The only thing I can say is "I hurt with you, and I am praying for you--and I won't stop".
Au Revoir, Patrice. I love you, I will miss you. Till we meet again.