I find it interesting that we only use candles at two events. When we are celebrating life and when we are mourning loss. At one point, we’ve all gathered around a cake lit up with candles, singing a song and laughing, celebrating another year passing. And at another point, we’ve held a candle solemnly, maybe hearing the passage Psalm 23 read for comfort.
Four days ago, my life was forever changed. My best friend and his girlfriend were taken from this earth, tragically passing away in a car accident. When I got the news, my knees hit the ground and I could feel the world around me crumbling. I had made plans to hang out with him the following day… I couldn’t comprehend him being gone. I couldn’t comprehend her being gone.
I can’t describe to you how painful these last few days have been. I’ve cried until I couldn’t take another breath. I’ve sat in silence. I’ve felt it all, then nothing at all. I felt my heart breaking within my chest, as reality began to set in. For a brief moment, I felt alone and afraid, with all of these emotions overcoming me. I felt lost and so confused.
But I didn’t stay there.
You see, Greg had a lasting impact on the friends I graduated with. Many had the blessing of being able to call him “best friend”, not just me. He was a part of my friend group in high school that experienced so many big moments together. We survived middle school together, we went through high school together, we graduated alongside of each other, we went off our ways to college, separate but together in spirit. We were there for each other through the loss of parents. We were there to celebrate engagements and exciting opportunities and anything that was worth celebrating. Greg was the one to say the right thing in the rough times. He was there to be so goofy in the good times. He was a faithful friend to so many, and our lives will be forever changed because we got to know him and Haley.
I found peace and rest in those friends. We found comfort in each other. From sitting around a table, laughing and telling stories of Greg’s crazy antics, to crying with each other, to voicing our frustration and anger. We realized that we can’t walk through this dark valley with one another. We realized that we can’t sit in the darkness. We realized that we need each other. We realized that we needed support, love, and encouragement from those walking through the same darkness.
And so we lit a candle. Then we used that flame to light another. Then another. Until each of our candles were lit, until the darkness was chased away by our light. And we promised to move forward, to wade through the darkness of grief and loss. Together. The shadows will come, but we will remember the light that we have together.
And now I understand candles. They remind people that they are not alone. They remind those who are another year older that they are loved, they are appreciate by many. And they remind those who have lost that they do not have to face the darkness alone.
These next weeks, months, years even may be some of the most painful that we will ever have to face. We will scream at God in frustration. We will fall to our knees in sorrow. We will search for answers to the question “why?” We will try to make sense of grief. But I remain hopeful in the fact that I am not alone in this. I am surrounded by friends like candles, flooding my darkness with light and chasing the shadows away. And I will remind those friends of that truth too.
Greg and Haley were two of the brightest lights I have ever had a chance to know. Haley’s smile was all together beautiful, and her laughter was filled with joy. I was inspired by her motivation to pursue her passions and dreams. Although I did not know her as well as I could have, I have fond memories I’ve shared with her at camp, dances, Bible study, and youth group. She has inspired many and has touched even more with her talents and gifts.
Greg was my best friend, my big brother, and my closest companion. He had the indescribable knack of lighting up a whole room with his corny jokes and laughter. He was wise beyond his years, and had such an unique understanding of life. He didn’t have all the answers, but he had the right words. His impact spans across the world, even to the Philippines. My life has forever been changed by knowing him and calling him best friend. This world will feel a lot darker without him and a lot heavier.
Even in this time of loss and sadness, we are able to see hope and joy, for Greg and Haley are with our Heavenly Father. They are walking in His presence, just like it was intended. They are free from the pain and evil of this world, and they are finally whole in the presence of God. We cling to the promise that we will see them some day soon. Although that does not chase our hurt, our brokenness, our sadness, our anger away, it gives us reason to say “even so, it is well with my soul.”
Greg and Haley, you will forever be missed by many. You were so, undeniably loved during your time here… by so many. I will miss you. I will carry you both in my heart for the days to come. I would not be the person I am today had I not known you.