When I was twenty-four years old, I heard about this girl named Steph-- from many sources in Idaho. They would tell me, "You and Steph NEED to meet each other!" She heard the same from those mutual friends in reverse, "Steph, you NEED to meet Emilee!"
We attended the same church, we worked out at the same gym and had mutual friends. But it took a long time for Steph and me to finally meet. When we finally did meet, it was an instant connection. We had the same sense of humor, the same interest in challenging our bodies (although, she went to the CrossFit Games so she is about fifty times stronger than I am), and just enjoying the subtle things in life.
But Steph scared me.
Not because of how jacked she was, but because she had just gone through something that I didn't know how to help her through. She lost her husband and she was just thirty-one years old. Steph and I were both looking for places to live and she suggested that we move in together.
Of course, I want to live with the hilarious, strong, outgoing, beautiful Steph. But I didn't feel capable of being her support during such an unimaginable time.
What does one say to their friend who has lost their thirty-six-year-old husband?
I didn't feel equipped with the knowledge, wisdom, or experience to help her. And I was scared out of my mind to be the person she came home to every day when I knew how badly she wanted to come home to her husband.
My cousin Lydia encouraged me, "There aren't words that you can say that will take her pain away, but what you can do is just be there. When she comes home and collapses in tears, just be there."
So, that's what we did.
Steph and I laughed a lot, we cried a lot, and when I was in bed and she came home after hanging out with friends and sat on the couch in the living room crying the most painful, scream of a cry-- I got out of bed and just held her. We just sat there.
I'm sure I said a lot of the wrong things, I'm sure she still felt alone in her processing, I'm sure there are a million people that could have been better to be there with her-- but she leaned on me during that time and, most often, I didn't need to say a thing.
I share this story because a lot of people probably feel similar about dealing with my brother's sudden passing. What do we say to Emilee? How do we support her? What can we do?
There is nothing you can do to take the pain away, but you can sit with me in it. You can just be there. For my sisters, for my parents, and for me. The turnout we had at my brother's celebration of life was beyond words. We all felt so supported by our community and those living near and far.
The smallest little things are huge right now-- like the call I had with Nate Parsons this morning. The bike ride I had with Tony Augustinack. The hike with Alese Waters and Stacy Tetreault. My childhood best friend Sami Ramey dropping off a care package (including Space Jam- WOW she knows me well). My cousins flying in and staying with us. Aunt Kari and uncle Dan staying for several days. My daycare lady, Nancy Bollum showing up with her daughter Jonna, who has become like a sister to me. Colby Ring holding me up when I couldn't stand on my own. Scotty Ramey singing Taylor Swift with me under his breath during the drive home from the funeral. Friends showing up that I'd never met in person before who Tj so greatly impacted. Madison Smith just simply wanting to stand next to me. Taylor Heath sending me love even though she couldn't be there in person.
And, in a sea of people-- Steph, even though I didn't think she would be there, came walking through the crowd to give me the biggest hug and spend time with my family afterward.
All of that is how you support people when you don't know what to say.
Thank you, everyone, for being there. For being present. It's really hard to ask for help, but we will do our best to ask for help during this unbelievably hard time.
And just like Teej would want us to do-- we will warrior on.