“I’m not supposed to be here right now.”

An anguished big sister spoke those words on Friday morning at her 18-year-old brother’s funeral. I can only imagine how surreal that moment must have been for her. We aren’t supposed to be attending funerals for our little brother or our son or teenage friend.

It was the third teen death touching different circles of our community in a two-week span. It felt like too much for our brains to process. Our hearts were bursting with sadness. How did this happen? It’s not supposed to be this way.

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Our kids have learned about the value of attending funerals the past few weeks. It’s a scary thing to do. To face your grief. To look in the faces of people who are completely devastated by loss. To figure out whether it’s “OK” to go to a funeral even if you weren’t a close friend.

But they’ve also learned the value of grieving in community. They’ve learned about the healing power of hugs. And how it helps to reflect on someone’s life.

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The past few weeks have made me feel incredibly alone and vulnerable. Up until a few months ago, I always knew that whatever happened in our life, we could count on our church family to be there for us. We haven’t ever faced a tragedy like the ones we’ve encountered lately, but I always felt confident that if we did, we would be surrounded by our church.

Now, our community has been scattered. It’s hard to understand why this had to happen. And how is it that you can go from seeing people so frequently that they feel like family to suddenly not seeing each other at all? It’s been confusing and painful.

We haven’t been on a mission to find a different church. We took some time off and then it felt more and more difficult to go back. And then it felt far too easy to disappear.

Since we go to a church in a different community, maybe it was time to get plugged in closer to home.

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We visited a church this past weekend. The pastor spent some time getting to know us after the service. And then he asked if he could pray for us.

“I’m not supposed to be here right now,” I was thinking. For so many years, I’ve been on the other end of this conversation. I’ve been the one welcoming people and getting to know them. I’ve been the one asking questions and praying for people who were searching. I was standing there, thankful for this stranger who wanted to pray for me, and also confused as to how this happened.

After spending so many years pouring my heart, my time and my love into something, how is it even possible that I’m wandering around feeling lost and alone? How did we raise our kids in a loving church family, only to get to the critical high school years and feel like we’re suddenly starting over?

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I’m not supposed to be here right now.

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