Years ago, I can remember my friend Tat telling me her favorite scene in the movie Tangled was the part when all of the lanterns float into the sky. “It’s beautiful, Aliza,” she said, “all of that light.”
So one day, Tat, our friend Brianna, and I took our own lanterns, lighting them with fire, and watching them rise high, the night sky glistening behind them. I’ll never forget Tat’s face from that night: filled with wonder, childlike delight. She kept giggling and sighing, saying, “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
I remember that night like it was yesterday. She wore her favorite red plaid shirt, her hair tied back in a half knot. I remember it so sharply because there won’t be another like it.
Almost a year ago, my friend Tat was killed in a car accident, and I am still brimming with grief.
Last year, a week after Tat died, my church community wanted to do something to honor her. Of course, a week into our grief, we had no idea what could possibly encapsulate the short life of our beautiful friend.
My first thought was floating lanterns. I wanted us to light hundreds of lanterns into the sky for Tat. Hundreds were a bit optimistic, so we settled for twenty.
Dozens of us crowded in a circle in the center of a dark field, our grief palpable. We were awkward; we didn’t know what to say. We shuffled our feet, looking at one another, unsure of how we were supposed to be feeling. We began lighting the lanterns, one by one.
Except . . . they wouldn’t light.
Handfuls of them were broken, unable to catch the fire, and the ones that did light started swarming with flames. The flaming lanterns threatened to burn the houses around us, and after a few moments of panic and stamping on the lanterns to keep them from burning up our town, all twenty of us burst into fits of laughter. Tears rolled down our faces — a mix of laughter and grief. I think someone started singing the “Ryan Started The Fire” song from The Office. Two lone lanterns staggered through the night sky. I kept thinking that even in all of its complete imperfection, Tat would have loved that night.
Last night, I drove home from work. All day long, I felt sick with grief. I was exhausted from the weight of it. Even a year later, the sadness is a seemingly constant companion.
A year ago yesterday, Tat got engaged to her fiancé. On my way home, I kept telling God how unfair this all still is. Why didn’t Tat get to be married? How come she only got a week-long engagement? Why did she have to die? These questions I can’t seem to find answers to.
My missing her intensified within my chest, a throbbing pain. I was on the highway at 11:30 at night. There was not one car or person around me.
Look up. I felt the words within me.
I turned my face toward the night. I was stunned by the view I saw. There, bright against the black sky, was one fiery floating lantern.
What? A floating lantern in the middle of the highway on a Thursday night?
Tears sprang into my eyes. They cascaded down my cheeks, full of heartbreak and reverence and utter disbelief. God, in His unfathomable tenderness and kindness, sent me a lantern, of all things.
I felt the love of Jesus wrap around me, and I cried and I cried and I cried all the way home.
I miss my friend. I miss her in a way I can’t comprehend and can’t put into words. But last night, as I encountered the love of Jesus in such a personal, tangible way, I was reminded of this: God sees me. God has her. God hasn’t forgotten either of us.
And that goes for you too. When your heart is heavier than an elephant, worn down by grief and strife, I want you to know: God has not forgotten you. He is right here, right beside you — perhaps even sending lanterns to light your way home.
When your heart is heavier than an elephant, worn down by grief and strife, I want you to know: God has not forgotten you. -@alizalatta: Click To Tweet