The past several months have been exceptionally sad for my extended family. In June, a 40 year old niece died unexpectedly. Less than seven months later, her 20 year old daughter died from complications linked to Leukemia. For half a year, my brother in law and sister in law have been in the depths of grief without relief. I cannot imagine their sadness, their emptiness. As a woman who has never even been pregnant, let alone raised a family, I have no concept of what that sense of loss must do to a person’s soul. I do believe, however, that even in the depths of the worst imaginable pain, little tiny specs of light can raise their heads, even if only for a few seconds, before they descend into hibernation once again. These specs of light take on many forms. Sometimes they converge into a family member, or a powerful book or a sermon or a bowl of ice cream. On the heavy day of the second funeral couple of weeks ago, I caught a burst of light among the crowd. At the service honoring this young life, I had the honor of witnessing friendship at its pinnacle. The funeral had just begun and a cacophony of sniffles was filling the air. Everyone was watching the family….everyone except me. My eyes were locked on the two women sitting directly in front of me. They were Linda and Martha, two of my sister in law’s dearest friends in the world. The three of them have known each other for a lifetime. They have shared sickness, sadness, secrets, scandals, births, deaths and recipes. Martha and Linda sat next to each other clutching hands as their bookend husbands sat upright, stoic, quiet and befuddled at their own incompetency at fixing the situation at hand. During the eulogy comments were made about friendship. At the mere sound of the word, Martha leaned in to Linda and squeezed her around the neck, then planted a soft kiss on her cheek and laid her head on her shoulder. They looked at each other and smiled. They continued to gaze at each other and smile, amid all the sounds of sadness and grief that swirled around them, untouched. They held each other’s gaze for a few seconds, then simply winked at each other, held hands and shared a peace that passes all understanding. These two women said not a word to each other, but I knew what they were thinking. Should they have chosen to speak to each other at that moment, they would have said something like this. “I love you. No matter what ever happens to any of us, we have always had each other. You give me strength and I am so grateful that you have always been there for me. I love you and trust you with hall my heart. Even though I am sad as hell right now, I am so filled with gratitude for you that my crazy heart is singing. And your hair looks good….I don’t care what your husband says.” In friendships of this stature, however, often no words are needed, so none were uttered. I watched those two women throughout the afternoon while they flanked my sweet sister in law as herding canines flank wandering sheep. They swooped in and out of her presence as needed, a spectacular display of migration into a life without the presence of a beloved grandchild. They delivered and took away pieces of cake, cups of water and tissues like a road crew servicing a race car driver at a pit stop. They distracted clumsy mourners away from my sister in law and placed warm hands on her shoulders when she wanted to collapse. These women, these specs of light dressed in funeral garb were my sister in law’s life support for the day. Odds are that in a year or two or several, they will be pressing the replay button on the process of bidding a loved one farewell, because that is what true friends do for each other as life follows its path. In between, they will laugh and drink and take each other to the doctor, then go shopping for shoes. They will listen to stories about each other’s exceptionally wonderful/difficult husbands, children and grandchildren and never repeat a word unless it is flattering. They will stand next to each other in the mirror and compare wrinkles and sags. Through it all, they will remain loyal, constant and grateful to each other, for even in the darkest of times, little specs of light like these are the only illumination that we need to take the next step into our lives.