Just over two months ago, my friend Brendan passed away after a long battle with ALS. He and I had been friends since we were six years old and spent most of our lives as pen pals. I knew he was sick. I knew he was battling a disease that would kill him. I just wasn’t prepared to not have him be a part of my life.

Out of all the people in my life and friends I’ve had, he was the most faithful and constant. He knew me and knew my heart. He knew how I had started struggling with anxiety when I was 10, though we didn’t know what it was called then. He knew how much I struggled the last few years with some work situations, and even in my faith. He knew how I had knelt and found Jesus again, by talking to Jesus. He knew all this, because he asked. Because we were real friends. He knew how much I loved certain music, so he would send me music videos he wanted me to watch.

I knew how hard they fought to get him a better wheelchair. I knew how angry he was when his Dad died, and how he thought they took the wrong Brady. I knew how his Daughter was his whole world. I knew all this, because he told me. I knew he loved watching videos of me sing, and of my kids singing so I would post often because it was one more way he could be connected to my life. He would have loved my family.

Covid came at the worst possible time because we were supposed to see him last summer. He never met my husband, or my kids. I never met his daughter. But we knew each others families so well because we talked all the time.

The last time I heard from him was on his birthday. January 27.

I wrote often after, to no response. My messages unread. And I knew. I knew it was very bad this time. He’d been sick before but he’d always found a way to communicate. We lost him on April 16.

I lost Brendan in one of the strangest seasons of my life. He knew about it because I’d shared with him. But it’s been a time where I feel like I’ve become a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit anymore. Like I was a part of a puzzle of a landscape and my piece got wet and when you try to put it back in it’s misshapen.


I’m trying to find my place again.

There are some places where I fit. My job, my immediate family, my very core friendships who stuck around this year.

But then there is the loneliness.

This year I experienced such a level of loneliness. This wasn’t Covid related. I think it was because before I even lost Brendan I was grieving some other friendships.

There are the friends you have where you are the puzzle piece that never really fit, they are way cooler, you were never really in with. Outskirt friendships. You are the plus one, if they need a plus one.

There are the friends who found friends who just fit better. Maybe they are funnier. Less soggy. Maybe didn’t have as much damage.

And then there are the friends who just lost the piece of the puzzle and decided it was okay to use it without it. Maybe they are aloof, or lazy, or the Elsa of friends. You know, “just let it(our friendship) go.” But oof.

This loneliness was so great, because as an extrovert and as someone who loves to connect with people this is hard. And we don’t have family nearby, and so we aren’t connected to that puzzle. I miss out on a lot. Weekend get togethers. Holidays. So for me, I would try then to fill my time with just my kids because my husband works so much. But my kids are growing up too.

Maybe you aren’t following…the moral is I am lonely. I have been very lonely.

I would invite people over to my Covid Cafe. I would reach out. I started a Bible Study that I wrote over Zoom, all things desperate for connection. Because I felt like I didn’t fit. Because of the political climate and social media climate I was disheartened by that, and thought maybe that was why I didn’t fit. I stopped drinking and thought maybe that was why I didn’t fit anymore.

As a classic overthinker I spent a lot of time overthinking all of it. The loneliness. And when the grief came, I just became sad.

And what I realized. It’s okay for me to be sad. And grieve. I lost one of my best friends to an ugly horrible disease.

I never doubted Brendan loved me. And Brendan knew I loved him. We were so blessed to have each other.

And I miss him every day. Yesterday I missed him so much because I miss talking to him. I missed having a friend checking in. I wanted to tell him something that was bothering me, because he was the friend I would’ve shared that with.

So I read some of our messages, and letters because there are years and years of them. And it’s nice to have them. But also that’s it. He’s not there anymore.

He’s not here.

So it’s caused me to do something else. It’s caused me to reflect on what can come out of this year.

Loneliness is different than solitude.

I can embrace a little solitude if I invite God in. Because through all of this grief and sadness I’ve never been alone.

I was reading some writings by my spiritual director Fr. Henri Nouwen. You should probably know He is also in Heaven, but came into my life during the time when I COULD NOT find anyone to be my spiritual director. But the more I read his books and spent time in prayer the more I realized God can work in mysterious ways. And he has. But yesterday I was incredibly lonely, and was in prayer and read this.

“Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. Jesus himself entered into this furnace. There he was tempted with the three compulsions of the world: to be relevant (‘turn stones into loaves’), to be spectacular (‘throw yourself down’), and to be powerful (‘I will give you all these kingdoms’). There he affirmed God as the only source of his identity (‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone’). Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter – the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.”


And you know something?

A year and a half ago I stood in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. I was breaking out in hives daily every time I had certain meetings. I had started getting the shakes constantly from anxiety. I was losing chunks of my hair. I was questioning my faith. I was being told who my God was, who I had spent my entire life serving, and hearing division spoken that was tearing at my soul masked as love. I was unraveling. I had to walk away. I gave up a lot. And I lost a lot. I lost friends. I used to try to pile on make up to cover the circles under my eyes. I used to be told if only I let someone specific pray with me I’d be healed. I lost a uterus, and had a years recovery from the extensive work done to my bladder as well.

But I did find healing. I had surgery. I spent hours walking in my neighborhood holding my husbands hand praying, shuffling my feet. I stopped following people on social media. I stopped reading people’s Twitters(which by the way NO ONE SHOULD HAVE A TWITTER) unless they are in the news media and actually posting breaking news, it is completely self serving. And then I stopped going on social media most days. I started working out daily. I got a new job. I went to church where division wasn’t spoken, where Everything pointed to Jesus, and I could kneel and feel safe. And then Jonah moved away. I rarely wore make up anymore, especially under my eyes.

Life was still really hard. And I was still really lonely.

And then Brendan died.

In the last two months I’ve started taking at least an hour of prayer every day. Since we got our puppy, close to two or three. I’ve been looking at this solitude as a gift to my grief to allow God to do a good work in my heart. It’s not easy. In fact it’s brought all the loneliness of the last year to the surface. But it’s also allowed me to really begin to see how important it is to cherish the faithful friends we have.

I had a good one. One of the best ones.

And God can be the only source of my identity. Not my job. Not my stellar parenting, which by the way has not been the most stellar this year. Not who I am as a wife, sister, daughter, mother…which is where I have spent most of my life finding my identity in. In Him, and Him alone.

I want friendships of substance. I want a life full of great encounters. That means I’m willing to grieve when I lose. But I’m also willing to Love BIG. Because I am also a faithful friend.

I will miss Brendan the rest of my life.

I thank God for him everyday.

I’m so thankful for this time to grow closer to the one who continually walks me through grief. Through dark clouds. Who has always been my only source of healing. This time of grief is bringing great transformation in my heart. And our God is Love. And Love transforms Us.

Love transformed Me.

ps. one of the greatest gifts about my friendship with Brendan is that we checked in on each other. Check in with your friends. do it. friendship is such a gift. and never forget to tell them you love them. you are loved.