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The Unlikely Gift That Gave Me Hope After My Sister's Death

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We had just gotten home and the doorbell rang. My friend and his family were standing on the porch with nothing more than a simple brown paper bag. He looked at me and quietly said, “I heard you needed some support.” I opened the bag, reached in, and what I pulled out made me laugh for the first time in three days. That simple gift reminded me there was hope and I would laugh again.

The days had been dark and long. In fact, I cannot remember a darker day in my life. For two days, we had gathered around my sister’s hospital bed. Unresponsive and declining, the cancer was winning. Slowly she was slipping away, and there was nothing we or anyone could do to stop it. For six months we had held out hope. We had prayed and sought out any treatment that might stop this devastating disease. We knew at some point it would win, we just were not expecting it this soon.

For two days, we sat, and hoped, and prayed for a miracle — but the miracle did not come. A young mother of 26, with a young son and husband, was quietly being taken from us — and there was nothing we could do. By Monday morning, it was obvious our time was short, and we knew we would have to say goodbye. As we gathered around her bed, we hugged, and cried, and prayed, and at 1:30, as she took her last breath, we said goodbye.

Nothing before or since has rocked me to my core as this did. It was like a sucker punch to the gut. As I stepped out of the room, I collapsed in tears, broken by the loss before us. We drove home in silence, my eyes so dry they burned, but with no tears left to shed. I felt numb and almost as if I was in some nightmare. Exhausted, discouraged, and heartbroken, I could not see any light, no bright future, and no hope for tomorrow.

As the news spread, we received calls, texts, and messages of sympathy, but I did not want to talk or respond and quietly withdrew into a world where all hope seemed lost, all joy seemed to be absent. It was in this dark moment that the doorbell rang, and there stood my friend. In his hand was a simple, brown, paper bag, that I later discovered was full of laughter and hope.

As he handed it to me, his wife quickly disavowed any association with it and simply said, “This was his idea.” I opened it and as I pulled out the jockstrap (unused and still in the box), he simply said, “I heard you needed some support today.” I stood there looking at it for what seemed like hours, and then just doubled over in laughter.

It was the first time I had laughed in days, and it reminded me that I would laugh again and that there was hope. Not hope that my sister would magically be healed or that I would no longer feel pain, but hope that this was not the end. Hope that there were still bright days ahead and that through my grief, I would learn to live once again. It brought me hope that we would find our way through this, even if we could not see it at the time.

I will never forget this act of love and courage as long as I live, for it was the first of many steps in the healing process after my sister was gone. I don’t know what possessed him to do this, or where he got the idea, but he was the friend I needed when I needed him the most. The courage, and also the understanding of my grief that this simple act showed, demonstrated the depth of our friendship and the understanding of what I needed most as a friend.

I don’t think this man will ever understand how he helped me, but his love and “support” on that day, and in the coming months, saved not only me, but my family, and even my ministry and career. Too often, we are so worried about what to say or what to do when someone is grieving, but in reality, the most important thing we can do is be there for one another, hold each other up, and walk beside each other in the healing process.

I am not saying to show up at a funeral with a jockstrap, but don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and help a friend when they are grieving. Who knows, you just might be the jockstrap that gives them the support they need to find hope, joy, and peace — and when you do that, you will help them face tomorrow.

Getty image by Westend61

Originally published: January 21, 2022
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