This weekend, I once again found myself traveling across the state, and surrounded by friends from college for yet another sad occasion. A friend's younger sister committed suicide.
It was, by far, the saddest funeral I have ever attended.
Between the senselessness of her death, the unresolved conflicts my friend had with her sister, and some discomfort between some friends, what struck me the most was how often mere misunderstandings can turn into hurt feelings, resentment, and bad decisions.
It was so sad to see my friend, feeling such guilt about all the conflict she had had with her sister over the years. For so long, she had thought of her sister as selfish and immature, always causing trouble and only thinking of herself. It wasn't until year later that her sister was diagnosed with a psych disorder. By then, though, the hurt feelings had set in. It is difficult to separate the behavior from the person. No matter that the behavior was caused, not because of immaturity and selfishness, but because of an illness. All the feelings of resentment and now guilt, caused by a misunderstanding of mental illness.
Then, the sister herself. I think we all do the best we can with what we think we have at our disposal. But sometimes we can get so caught up in what's going inside our own heads that we lose sight of all we actually have. We don't see the wonderful gifts around us nor the joyful moments in this world. We don't see all the people surrounding us who love and care for us. I think the sister was going through this very thing, but a million times more intensely than you or I. Her very sad decision to end her life, arising from an illness that caused her to lose sight of the people who care about her so much. A life lost because of a tragic misunderstanding.
Fortunately, not all misunderstandings end so sadly. My other friend was on the phone, railing about how she didn't know if she should go, since another friend would be there and they had some harsh words a number of years ago. "I think she'll be upset if she sees me. I don't want to cause any tension." Then we had some words. "You get in your car and drive up!" I told her. "Our friend needs us and that is more important than some stupid grudge from years ago." So she did.
Turns out, the whole argument from years ago was a big misunderstanding. They were actually laughing about it by the end of the weekend. "I'm so glad I came up." my friend told me later. "Our friendship is stronger than any argument!"
Friendship is stronger than misunderstanding. Friendship is stronger than grief. Friendship is stronger than anger or jealousy or maybe even mental illness if we can just see past whatever misunderstanding we are holding onto.
What misunderstandings do you need to clear up?