When the Storms Come
by Afton B. Rovnik
Michelle and I have called each other “friend” for decades. At this age, we’re not counting exactly how many decades. We met our freshman year of college and then shared our first apartment together after college. She introduced me to gourmet coffee, and I introduced her to Shakespeare. We made runs for deep-dish pizza together. I still have the dress I wore in Michelle’s wedding. My daughter latched onto it as a child and dubbed it her favorite princess dress-up dress—one she wouldn’t share. I have apologized many times to Michelle for the pink, puffy-sleeved dress she had to wear in my wedding.
In 2005, long after those college days and our wed-dings, storms invaded Michelle’s life, followed shortly by storms in my own life. Not just heavy spring cloudbursts but hurricane-strength storms that took our breath away and made us both want to run for cover.
Our phone conversations and coffee runs no longer focused on kids and swimming lessons, household projects, or upcoming vacations. Instead we discussed such topics as chemotherapy and a rare neurological disease with a hard-to-pronounce German name. The pain felt so real and so deep.
At some point one of us stumbled upon a verse in a little-known book of the Old Testament:
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:19-23, NIV).
This became our shared mantra: “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed.” Sometimes we simply end-ed a phone conversation or quick cup of coffee with, “We are not consumed.”
Many months before I learned of my mom’s condition, while Michelle and her husband met with doctors about their daughter’s condition, I hung out with five-year-old Calvin for most of two days. We played with his magnetic link set and read stories. He explained his latest elaborate cardboard building projects to me. He helped me do laundry at my house and beat me in multiple games of foosball. After din-ner at our house that second night, I drove Calvin home to put him to bed.
“When will Daddy be home? Will you be here in the morning? Is Megan still in the hospital? Will Mom be home tomorrow?”
I wanted to give Calvin concrete answers for all his questions. A firm yes or firm no. A specific time frame. I wanted to make everything feel better for him. And I wanted to make everything better for my friend. If I could just make all of this go away. . . .
“Hey, Calvin. Let’s play a game. See these cards? Let’s draw an arrow on every card. Then after you go to bed, I’ll put the cards on the floor outside your room. Either the cards will point toward your parents’ room because one of them is home, or they will point to your living room where I will be sleeping on your sofa. Either way, just follow the arrows, you will find a person.”
My arrow-game didn’t bring instant healing to my friend’s daughter. It didn’t give Calvin the answers he so longed for. It did, however, remind him that he was not alone. A person who loved him waited at the end of the arrow-path.
Don’t we all need such a reminder in the middle of a storm?
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