Kierstin and I have known each other for at least 10 years. After meeting one another through a mutual friend at the time, my first lunch date with Kierstin was at The Hobbit Hole which sadly burned to the ground; the restaurant is now called The Hobbit Cafe. Ever since that first meeting I've claimed her as a kindred spirit and a friend I will hold dear 'til we are gray-haired ladies with grandbabies. There are many reasons why; to quote her husband Jeremy, "If you've ever seen the movie Amelie (a French film with English subtitles) then you can get an idea of what my wife's personality is like...full of color and spunk." I happily agree for just to think of Kierstin makes me smile and I also add that she is one of the most selfless and thoughtful people I know. We worked together in Houston and our friendship sustained on the sad day (for me) that she moved to Nashville, TN. Alas, we were able to stay close friends through our preferred means of communication as writers: e-mail and IM. We even remained friendly when she was editor for my first assignments in online music journalism. I learned to appreciate healthy criticism because it came from a person I admire. And when Kierstin still lived in Houston she (perhaps unknowingly) displayed to me the art of "bearing one another's burdens thus fulfilling the law of Christ." There are many examples but I will share two.
One was on a Valentine's Day long ago when we were both single and not too thrilled with the male species. I would have chosen to sulk at home with a tear-inducing movie and junk food but Kierstin, as always, had a creative plan. She invited me on a date to try Indian food at Shiva in Rice Village. In those days she was a much better date than the guy I was pining over; and Johnny, myself, and our friends are forever grateful to Kierstin for our current Shiva addiction. The second was yet another night I was sobbing over a dumb boy. I'm ashamed to admit I was a bit mentally unstable and probably crying over the phone or at least ranting. She gently suggested I join her at Diedrich on Westheimer and I said something to the effect of I don't feel like talking anymore. And she said Well, why don't we just sip coffee, read, and write? I thought, Why not? And that night has remained in my vivid memory. We sat by the windows with little handles to open the the panes of glass if you wish, ate Diedrich's former chocolate biscotti, and merely by my friend sitting beside me in my sorrow I felt sane when she dropped me off at my apartment.
I ponder those times because Kierstin is in Houston right now. Her Dad, John Berry, is dying of cancer in hospice care. I guess I've been timid to write of this before because it is not my Dad or my suffering to share. But I've realized it is my suffering to share. The Lord commands me to bear other's burdens and who else would I bear burdens for but my closest Others? Kierstin ranks in the highest group and she is one I would drop anything to help in any way I am able. When she wrote saying she would fly to Houston to care for her Dad I looked forward to seeing her face but dreaded her imminent pain. And since she's been in town I've felt quite helpless to be honest. Watching Johnny care for and grieve his Dad gives me a glimpse of what Kierstin is dealing with but of course I cannot know the depths of her experience. And what can I do? I would gladly lift her burden of sorrow and drape it on my shoulders if possible. I've sat across from her at Empire Cafe and offered flimsy words of solace. I've shipped her favorite flowers, gardenias, in meager attempt to give a tangible gift of comfort. I listened at Nit Noi over Thai food and Brasil over coffee - once again I bumbled and floundered at a loss for wisdom to impart. We laughed that night, though; I accidentally said, "Excuse me" to an inanimate Thai statue as we exited Nit Noi and then Kierstin scarily drove over a pothole in her Dad's truck like we were in a video game, not in an actual automobile. We laughed wearily and I don't know why because we were both quite sad - she for her Dad and I for Kierstin. But I had a small epiphany after that evening. 'Tis not up to me to bring Kierstin comfort, solace, or joy. Jesus has "borne her griefs and carried her sorrows." When empathy causes me to shed tears for Kierstin and her Dad, I do the only thing I can remotely do well which is offer up continual prayers for each. One prayer I literally begged, God please grant John Berry the same kind mercy You bestowed to Johnny's Dad - salvation in Christ before his death. When Kierstin told me last week that her Dad expressed his belief in Christ Jesus' sacrifice, the glorious Gospel, tears of joy poured from my tired eyes. When John Berry dies his immediate residence will be in Heaven with Jesus, the author of his faith. I pray that Truth will bring my friend some amount of instant comfort as she mourns her sweet father. My prayers will continue for Kierstin, and Christ who bore burden times infinity on the Cross will hear and rush to her broken heart, weep with her, and heal her selfless soul.