Now that Kara is gone, I’ve struggled to find the vocabulary to talk and think about her. I hate talking about her in past tense. And I personally don’t like the word “pass” to describe death. I find myself using the word “loss” a lot, as in, “I lost my best friend.” But when I hear myself say this, I bristle because I know it’s inaccurate—Kara isn’t lost. As long as we are headed to Heaven when we die, we will see her again. Kara is not lost, she is restored. And my friendship with her has not ended or disappeared; it has simply been interrupted. For a very short time until it, too, is restored.
Terminal illness changes friendship. It reorganizes priorities and introduces an urgency that otherwise doesn’t exist. You find yourself desperate to make the most of every moment with your friend. Time spent together is more intimate and intentional. And an undercurrent of sadness reminds you that even in the best moments, time is short.
That sounds dreary. And it is. However, the flip side of that is the depth of goodness and grace you experience in the midst of deep pain. My friendship with Kara was only for a few years, but it was a rich, meaningful relationship. We didn’t squabble or waste time. Our conversations reached the deep places of our hearts. We learned to communicate effectively and we learned to love each other well. If I live to be 100, I will look back at my relatively short friendship with Kara as one of my life’s most impactful relationships.
Here is the amazing part of all of this: When I join Kara in Heaven, the friendship that has been so impactful to me here on earth will be redeemed. Meaning, everything good about it will be brought into completeness and everything not good about it will disappear. Our sin will be gone. Any way we had of selfishly relating to one another or doubting each other’s love or speaking unkindly, etc., will cease to exist. I will never again approach Kara in fear or trepidation. I will never question how to love and serve her well. I will never question her motives in relating to me. And I will never fear her leaving me.
The amazing friendship I enjoyed on earth with Kara will pale in comparison with what is to come in Heaven.
Having a close friend with cancer brings the reality of the gospel to light. The promise of Heaven is in the forefront of my mind constantly. If it weren’t, I would despair. The hope of what is to come in being united with Christ almost overwhelms me. It certainly overwhelms my grief. While my heart is struggling with saying goodbye, scripture reminds us that separation is short. Soon we will all be together, enjoying the radiance of God, enjoying the redemption of relationships, enjoying the incarnation of hope in Christ our Lord.
Take a few minutes to imagine what friendship will look like in Heaven. What elements (doubt, fear, bitterness, etc.) will you be grateful to be relieved of? What will it look like to be sinless? Can you imagine what it will be like to be loved by sinless friends? Can you imagine enjoying the friendship of Christ face to face?