While I have always known Lori to be one of the most genuine and loving people that I have had the pleasure of knowing, I had no earthly idea how much so until this week. In the aftermath of her husband’s homicide she has demonstrated heartbreaking grace that has left me forever changed as a person and as a friend.
During seven painstaking calling hours over two days last week, Lori aptly allowed herself to weep and to celebrate his life without apology or expectation. I heard her state several times that she is not afraid of grief and that she will do her best to embrace the many forms it will take. She is a bereavement counselor by profession so she knows better than any the import to her wellbeing to simply allow the spirit to move through her and to help her heal. Nonetheless, I have never been so touched witnessing her put this to practice in her own life.
If you don’t know Lori, let me just say that her huge blue eyes are disarming ~ when she makes eye contact, when she laughs, but never more so than when she takes your hands in a receiving line while sitting beside her young husband’s casket and looks at you filled with tears. And the moments that follow make you feel as if you are the only person in the room as she hugs you, consoles your loss, tells you in earnest what you mean to her and what you meant to Jeff, or whatever clear and genuine thing she wants you to know to help you in your grief as well. Selflessly. For an entire sea of visitors ~ some whom she knows well and others whom she is just meeting for the first time. Person after person for seven long hours without wavering in her support of them and, in doing so, healing herself as well.
When it was my turn I so wanted her to have a momentary rest that I told her that she didn’t need to say anything at all. She responded with, “I know, Christine, because you already understand. I am sorry for your losses, too, and sad that they are of a nature that we do not recognize as loss. Near death of child. Failing health. Divorce. Just know that despite our busy lives and the fact that we struggle to see one another as often as we would like my world is more comforting just knowing you are nearby and in it.”
And the others?...
…”Please carry on the important work you and Jeff did together…he believes in you…”
…”Remember the time you made Jeff laugh so hard he nearly…”
…”It’s okay if you don’t want to walk by the casket…we all mourn differently. We wanted an open casket because we don’t want people to be afraid any longer despite the circumstances of his death. But I am sorry if this upsets you in any way.”
…”Jeff will smile when our boys spend time with you. He always appreciated your friendship.”
…”while I miss his physical presence, he is in me and comforts me still.”
And sometimes she would just hold someone and cry with them. Or even wail to have her husband back which caused our collective hearts to weep with her.
There are only a handful of couples that I have met in a lifetime that seem to truly love each other, like each other and partner in the way that Jeff and Lori did. Bob and Agnes. Claude and Lenore. Tedra and Scott. Harvey and Jaton. Polly and Lynette. Jeff and Lori. There may be just a few others as well.
Today, I feel a mixture of sadness and anger. But, I also have a level of gratitude beyond what I already practice day to day. Gratitude for friendship. Gratitude for life. And, gratitude for this strong, beautiful, human person before me who makes me want to be better.
Even in her darkest hours of loss, Lori’s light taught me this as well.