“Sitting silently beside a friend who is hurting may be the best gift we can give.” ~Unknown

There’s a time for words and a time for silence. Thankfully, when I went through one of the darkest periods of my life, I had friends who knew what time it was.

When things go well, your friends don’t usually need to show up in silence. But everything changes when you go through a season of intense pain and disappointment. I know this from firsthand experience.

My life took a drastic turn for the worse when the first ride of the season on our motorcycle ended abruptly. A driver who should have stopped and waited turned left onto the highway, right in front of us. In that moment, we met a world of hurt.

After the initial crash, which I barely survived, I experienced incredible peace and gratitude. I was in a great deal of pain, but I found myself grateful for my family, the excellent care I was receiving, and hope for a better future.

In the early days of repair and recovery, I appreciated the friends and family who came to visit. I enjoyed hearing their news and talking about my journey. I read, with gratitude, the cards that were filled with words of encouragement and love.

But I also appreciated the times when words were not spoken. My true friends would watch me fall asleep in the middle of a conversation and not be bothered. They knew I needed the rest and were okay sitting in silence.

When Silence Meant the Most

At the four-month point of my recovery, the pain and loss took a turn for the worse. An infection in my leg that was supposed to be killed two months earlier was alive and well. It resulted in an unexpected re-admittance to the hospital and a painful fourth surgery.

After that fourth surgery, the reality of my situation started to sink in. My body would never be the same again. The next marathon I was planning to run would never see me at the starting line. The door into a brand new work opportunity that opened up just before the accident was slammed shut.

As the losses mounted, my infected leg throbbed under the pain of reconstruction. I slipped into depression and struggled to find relief physically and emotionally. The pain medicine took the edge off the physical pain but the emotional pain was relentless.

At one particular low point in the hospital bed, my wife and two life-long friends sat with me. In the void of silence, something powerful happened. I started to cry shallow tears at first, but then guttural sobs that came from the deep pain I was feeling.

At that point in my hurt, I would have snapped had someone told me, “It will be okay. Hang in there. You’ll get through this.” Those words would have felt like patronizing pity and been no comfort at all.

What I was given in the silence was the best gift I could have received. I wasn’t out of the woods, but I had moved ever so slightly in the direction of healing and being present with my pain and struggle.

I had a similar experience two days later in the same hospital room. Another dear friend came to visit, not with answers or platitudes, but with support and a willingness to sit in silence. He received my tears in silence without feeling awkward and left having given me a gift.

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