We felt like we knew Will Gray, like he was a long-time friend, but in reality, we only met him in person one time.  As we sat on the back pew for his memorial service last week, we learned so many poignant details of his 33 years of life for the first time, through his family and pictures and even his own songs played there.  At the reception afterward, Angie, his wife, shared that same sentiment of feeling like we know each other well, though we really do not.  I suppose this type of relationship is one of the true victories of living and sharing and connecting in this digital age. 

Strangely, our connection with this couple runs deeper than just reciprocal blog readings and mutual friends.   In fact, the connection has felt undeniably providential.  As I picked up food for the funeral reception, I couldn't stop staring at the man next to me in line who looked EXACTLY like a 70-year old version of Will--the hair (but his streaked with white), the face, the height, even the effortlessly cool vibe (this man clad in a musician-esque black t-shirt and jeans with Converse shoes, at 70!)  We then drove to the church for the memorial service, which was literally on the same street as our first home in Los Angeles.  After the service, we had dinner at our friends’ house, and the last time we ate dinner at their house was after the prayer service for Will and Angie, in March—which was the only time we ever met Will in person (posting here).  The whole day of Will’s funeral, I was bombarded with the interconnectedness of ALL our lives…the cycle of beginnings and endings, life and death, feasting and mourning was so palpable throughout. 

Even more than the providential intersecting, the Wolfs and the Grays, and all of us who have journeyed the road of suffering, are forever, inextricably connected through our pain.  In a strange way, the commiseration of pain gives us a gift, one that is desperately sought after by all human beings—the gift of being known by another person.  When you go through tragedy, perhaps especially if you are younger and maybe even more if you are a person of faith, you gravitate towards others who are unwitting members of that same club.  And even if you aren’t known by these friends in the more traditional sense of friendship, you are known in deeper places—in those places where hope has been deferred and the desire for healing of the soul aches within.

Our hearts pinged with familiar sadness as one of Will’s family members told us, “we really thought he was going to make it”.  And we did too. 

What do you do when the one thing you hoped for, the thing you bet everything else on, doesn't happen?

One of the first poems I remember is from 2nd grade, “A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes, its imagery is so vivid.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?  Or fester like a sore-- And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?  Or crust and sugar over-- like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

When it seems our hopes and our dreams are indefinitely deferred, don’t we feel that our very souls might just dry up or fester or stink or crust over or sag or even explode?

How do we live with a hope that is indefinitely deferred?

We hardly have the answers, but here are some thoughts through our own struggles with hope...(stay tuned for the follow-up posting, next).

 * Will's cover of Patty Griffin's "Top of the World"

{For more information on Will and Angie Gray's story -- www.goteamgray.com