We got the news of the sudden, tragic passing of Johanna, 27-year-old fiancée of our friend, on Friday. Shocked. Stunned silent. How could this be? Life is cruel. And this kind of news make you crazy. It’s so unbelievable. So unjust. Unacceptable.
Last night was the memorial service at our neighborhood Orthodox church, St. Antony’s. I wanted to do something for our friend, who’d lost his dreams, his love. So I baked cookies with the help of the kids. I didn’t have anything else to offer. My prayers, yes, but this was something I could put my hands to. Cookies and card in hand, we went to the service.
It was packed and the moment we entered the sweet smells of incense welcomed us. The icons comforted me as I thought on all the long line of people of faith who have suffered before us. Friends crowded the tiny church, we went upstairs to the balcony, the only available seats in the sanctuary. Prayers were chanted over her dead, lifeless, forever-27-year-old body. This was so unfair. Life stolen. Robbery. Our friend sobbing over his love’s body. His bravery greeting all those who came. Always such a gentleman.
Then it was our turn. In the long line of people (what a beautiful community they’re surrounded by) we walked up. There are few words to give to a grieving friend. “I’m so sorry” and tears seem to be enough. They just are. One of the most beautiful expressions is to mourn with those who mourn, to touch their sorrow with your own. So human.
I stood there in an embrace with my own love and our friend, these two towering men above me, and we hugged long and cried hard. The plate of cookies smashed in my arm. I shyly handed them to him, tears streaming.
“Is there somewhere I can put these?” I said. “I made you cookies. It’s what I can give.”
His response humbled me. Tears, a smile, heart touched by my simple offering. In this moment cookies were holy.
Today the funeral will be held and her body put to rest. The priest called her life “a light. Humble, quiet, and one that points us all to Christ.” Let it be as he has said. Let her light sparkle and shine in all of us that we might live more aware of this precious gift of life. Of today. Of now.
I love this quote by one of my favorites poets, Mary Oliver: “Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Note: there is a memorial fund set up to defray funeral expenses, and another friend wrote a song in her honor. If you’re able to give towards either to help the family and her fiancé Garth, it would be so much appreciated.