Our family was enjoying the beautiful white sand Lake Michigan beach the day my dad died. Everyone laughed and played together and I found an unusual piece of gun-shaped driftwood.
Fast forward 2 days and a police officer showed up at my home. An officer carrying a gun and the news that my dad shot and killed himself. Not sure of the exact day, but somewhere around the sunny-beach day and the gun shaped driftwood find, my father used a gun to end his life.
My neighbor friend Mary showed up at the door later that day. Mary’s first words were, “How can I be helpful?” “How can I be helpful” were the most beautiful and memorable words of the event.
There was nothing Mary could do to either change anything or help in any tangible way. But she was fully my friend, fully present and I knew 100% whatever I might need, not only for the moment but for what felt like forever, Mary was there.
And for the last 35 years she has been. She’s brought vases of fresh flowers, meals, visits and walks when some years later the world turned upside down yet again. Being helpful walked out across the last 35 years and an entire lifetime of grace-filled service to me, her family, other friends and total strangers.
The tragic ending of the life of my father was like a sudden gunshot, sending shockwaves of grief and bewilderment down through these years. But, more than that, the waves of “How can I be helpful” created a mantra and life perspective continuing to build a legacy of intentional kindness and a helping hand into today. Living each day as if it’s my last, because one never knows.
My fathers’ sad last day on this earth ended in reverberating pain through time. But that day is deeply marked by those 5 simple words spoken by my friend Mary.