FARGO — I just read the most beautiful essay from a friend; a fellow mother of five whose husband is on hospice.

Our children were older than hers when my husband twice faced open-heart surgery in 2016 and 2019, but I feel her words as a mother and wife watching and waiting. Such moments, despite muddled emotions, can bring clarity of mind and heart.

“Our culture teaches us to run from pain whenever possible,” she writes. “There is constantly a new pill, drug, instant gratification idea that is promised to help us outrun the pain of living and the appearance of aging.”

But eventually, we’re faced with the need for, and choice of, vulnerability. “Loss, in its many forms, is the consequence of vulnerability,” she says, adding, “Once we opt to be vulnerable, we are then ready to choose love.”

I pause, pondering this summer’s losses, including the recent, shocking death of a sweet new neighbor. Though in the eternal view, this is a gain, we selfishly mourn the absence of a good man, and the hopes we had to mingle with him more. He is no longer vulnerable; we are the ones standing empty-handed, groping to understand.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The day after his passing, we were loading up the car to bring our fourth child to college. Joy and grief mix here. With just one child at home now, a chilling quiet has blanketed our day-to-day lives.

This same son showed up for his brother’s first tennis practice, which, in past years, he would have attended, too. “It’s weird. It’s seeming real now,” he said of realizing he’s moving on. “I saw my mortality flash before me.” It sounds dramatic, but he was spot on. Deaths can be big or small, but each still is a death.

My friend writes that the loss she is experiencing right now is breaking her spirit at a time she thought she’d already shattered into as many pieces as is humanly possible. But she describes her struggle to express this in words as “strangely comforting,” because it reminds her there are more shards of her left. “The edges are sharp and draw blood, but they are still there. Numbness is my true fear. For today, I’ll take pain.”

I know her well enough to be consoled that her pain will be leveled by faith in a God who cares, and that a community of others who love him, too, surround her, now and into the days ahead. “The price of love has always been pain and grief,” she writes. “Love is expensive. I’m grateful someone else paid my admission.”

Oh, yes, sweet Jesus. Draw near to this family in their loss, so vivid now. Draw near to our sweet neighbors, facing a huge void. And draw near to us as we cheer for our son’s future, while at the same time, feel the pain of an empty, quiet room that once bustled with laughter.

What would we do without you, oh Lord, our true friend and savior?

Salonen, a wife and mother of five, works as a freelance writer and speaker in Fargo. Email her at roxanebsalonen@gmail.com, and find more of her work at Peace Garden Passage, http://roxanesalonen.com/