To this day I remember the time after my father's death as wrapped in a heavy gray fog. There was a lot to get done, and yet nothing to do--nothing that would make any difference to our grief. The sense of powerlessness was overwhelming. And so it seemed like magic when the people around us organized themselves to give us support and comfort.
My mother's best friend appeared with a list of days and who would be bringing us food. Another close friend appeared with a bag full of children's videos giving my sister and me a break from entertaining our young children.
Food was left on our door-step, friends would join us for the meals they had brought, and cards, notes and emails poured into our mailboxes and Inboxes expressing what a wonderful man my father was and how sorry they were for our loss.
In my haste to leave town and get to my mom as quickly as possible the day dad died, I had left a garment bag hanging on the door to my closet. A friend of mine drove to my cat-sitter's house to retrieve my house key, found the garment bag and then drove two and a half hours to bring it to me. She didn't stay, just brought the bag and gave me a hug. Another friend introduced me to someone she knew who had also recently lost a parent, connecting me with someone who would become my mini-support-group-partner for the next year.
Our old family friends, ministers who had married my sister and her husband, flew in from Seattle to conduct the memorial, bringing their youngest daughter, my parents' godchild. People from my mother's church baked cookies and served coffee and punch at the service. My uncle tearfully read my half-sister's remembrance of my dad, his hand on her shoulder, wanting to be strong for his niece while honoring his brother-in law.
During that week after my father's death, this all seemed to happen as if by magic. As if by magic, a yellow rose in a clear glass vase appeared in each of my mother's bathrooms. A simple and hopeful gesture, something beautiful to catch your eye as you look at yourself in the mirror.
None of these friends and loved ones did more than they could do. Yet each of them made that week more bearable, reminding me that despite our loss, we were surrounded by love. It's what friends do.