We’re standing in the church sanctuary, a place of holy refuge, and I know she feels safe. She’s facing a very tough day. She’s been carrying heavy burdens for several people, trying to help where and however she can, and I can see the weight of many hard weeks bearing down on her. She’s got herself together – she’s beautiful and graceful, keeping up with self-care, but none of us can do the impossible. We can’t bring people back from the dead, or stop the march of a loved one’s disease right there in its tracks with one desperate, pleading prayer. Her eyes fill up and flood over and I don’t have words so I do what friends do then. I hug her. And I don’t let go until she lets go first.
Later in the day I remember three women I haven’t thought of in many years. I dig up their picture:
Arms linked together, they were a bit of an obstacle walking down the Roman street at dusk on that cold, January day. I followed them for a little before snapping this photo. They were in no hurry, and didn’t sway from between these yellow lines. People went around them. I was wishing I spoke Italian so that I could catch snippets of their conversation, though I’m fairly sure the bulk of it was the same as that of women’s talk everywhere – mostly family, the work of homemaking, marriage, schedules, maybe some chit-chat about clothing, books, and other entertainment thrown in for fun.
But I took the picture because I was most captivated by the fact that they were linked. They were unified. They were together. They were walking through life, sharing the journey, and their joined arms confirmed to one another not just an intellectual support system, but a true physical presence. My arm in yours says, “You are really not alone.” Touch comforts when words can’t.
Valentine’s Day is coming up. Who else needs a hug? Maybe even a walking hug – where we join arms and travel some of this life together, sharing what we can, and letting the silent strength of one another’s arms be the reassurance we need when words fail us?
A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.
– Proverbs 17:17