Our dear blog friend Emilie Lemmons died in her sleep on Dec. 23 while her husband held her hand. You can read his last post on her blog and the last quote she wanted to share with all of us by clicking HERE.
I wanted to post about Emilie’s passing as soon as I read the sad news on Christmas Eve, but I found myself unable to put into words the strange grief I was feeling. As you know, I never met Emilie, never even spoke to her by phone. I knew her only through her blog and our common bonds as mothers, writers, bloggers and spiritual seekers. I was awed by her strength in the face of tremendous hardship, in her ability to enjoy every minute with her young sons even while she was dying, in her grace and honesty right up until the end. When I learned of her death, I wept, not a few sentimental tears for a stranger’s sorrow, but hysterical, overwhelming, sob-inducing tears. I found it odd that I could feel such strong emotions for someone who was never in my life in any concrete way.
It just so happens that throughout Emilie’s last days (which I knew of from reading her blog post about going into hospice care), I was experiencing a terrible professional betrayal. And let’s just say, I wasn’t handling it well. The fallout, which is by no means even close to over, paralyzed me. Suddenly I wasn’t sure about anything — about my career (which also happens to be a vocation), about my obviously misguided hope that people will do the right thing (especially when they work for a Catholic organization), about my next step forward into whatever unknown I was about to face. I found myself unable even to read my Advent reflections, no less pray about them. I felt empty and abandoned. I felt a spiritual darkness I have not felt in a very long time. But through all of it, my mind kept coming back to Emilie, and I would realize that despite my seeming inability to pray, I was praying for Emilie — constantly.
At night, when I was lying awake in bed worrying about how to handle my work situation, I would think about Emilie awake in her bed worrying about leaving behind her husband and two sons. And I would pray. In the morning, when I would stare at my computer as if some magical fix would arrive by email, I would think of Emilie starting her day and wondering if it would be her last. And I would pray. For several days running, the only thing I could pray about was Emilie. And that was Emilie’s great gift to me. At a time when I could not find the words or the inclination to pray for the guidance and trust I needed in my own situation, at a time when God seemed very far away and maybe not all that interested in my little problems, Emilie kept me in God’s presence when I most needed it. Without her even knowing it, in the midst of her great suffering, she was still giving to other people, still making a difference in the life of a complete stranger.
I didn’t realize all of this until days after her death, until I finally found the words I needed to pray. I honestly didn’t think I would make a spiritual rebound so quickly, and I don’t think I would have had it not been for Emilie. That’s not to say I’m out of the dark spiritual woods I’ve found myself in lately, but at least I’m on a well-marked path.