What do you do when there are no words?

I attended a celebration of life on Monday evening. Events like this make me feel inadequate, nervous, and curious about the afterlife.

My daughters and I drove together to Bonney Lake. It was a warm, sunny afternoon, and traffic was terrible on 167. There had been an accident or maybe more than one, which made the drive twice as long. We listened to 80s music, and my girls chattered on the drive. Inside, my nerves were on edge. My stomach felt queasy.

The young girl passed away just after St. Patrick’s Day, suddenly, from Addison’s disease, a rare and incurable disorder in which the adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones. Her mother, Lisa, asked for urgent prayers for her daughter on her Facebook page. She had been found unresponsive that day. Many prayed, but the prayers didn’t change the outcome. Anam Kelly died on March 18, 2021. She was 18 years old.

My daughter Macy and Anam were friends for several years during our martial arts journey, when they were just little kids, maybe seven years old. Our families had some things in common. Both Lisa and I were martial arts moms with two daughters of about the same ages. Their family came and worked out hard on the mats, just like us. They navigated the pre-teen and teenage years, just like us. We were moms in control and in charge, tough and strong.

We hadn’t kept in touch since our martial arts training days, but we did keep up online. We watched each other’s kids grow up and graduate high school, learn to drive, go to college, and take on new jobs.

But we hadn’t lived their journey through Addison’s disease, starting when Anam was just 12 years old. We hadn’t been in and out of hospitals, begging and pleading with doctors to find the correct diagnosis. We hadn’t watched our loved one become weaker and smaller. We just saw the pictures.

When we arrived at Kelley Farm in Bonney Lake on Monday night, Lisa and her husband greeted us. I just hugged her. I didn’t know what to say. She kept saying, “Thank you for coming. We’re glad you’re here.” How is she standing and speaking, I wondered? Honestly, what choice did she have? She and her family would have to endure this pain. There was no other option.

We saw many of our martial arts friends there. Our conversations were simple. It was great to see them, but I felt anxious and strange and didn’t feel much like talking.

The ceremony began, and there were stories about the remarkable character of sweet Anam and how she cared so deeply for people. Her friends and family referred to her as a little angel. And from what we knew of her, we would agree.

So, what do you do when all you can offer are heartfelt words of sympathy? Show up. Hug someone. Cry together.

The celebration of life was a beautiful tribute to a girl who’s gone too soon. I was reminded how life is meaningful, no matter how short or long. I recommitted my life to doing good and being grateful for all the blessings I have every day. And I will reflect on how it doesn’t matter what I do or say during difficult times. Sometimes there are no words because words aren’t necessary. Love is enough.

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