BTS, Pandemics, & the Loss of My Soulmate
I’m going to try really hard to not make this a stream of consciousness type of thing, but this whole pandemic/quarantine/epic-world-crisis situation is sending my emotions into overdrive. I’m feeling all the feels pretty much every day, but my biggest recurring “feel” has to be grief.
It’s understandable, I guess, considering the times we are in.
So, today, I was out taking a walk, listening to my music — my music being BTS, at the moment. Yes, I’m a grown-up, but my Korean daughter has recently turned me on to K-Pop, and I’m smitten. Anyway…I’m listening to their latest album and a song called, “Friends” comes on. It’s about the friendship between two of the band members and at the end of the song, they start singing, “you are my soulmate,” to each other. At first it struck me as a bit odd. Other than in the Bible, I think it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of friends being described as soulmates, and it got me thinking.
My husband is my soulmate in every sense of the word, and I am fiercely loyal to him. For me, no other man would fill his place if anything were to happen to him. It’s just how I’m made, personally speaking. (There’s absolutely no hidden commentary in that for others who have lost spouses and remarried; I have a few friends in that situation and I’m truly happy for them.) The point is, I’ve known this about myself for a long time, and I’m at peace with it. One soulmate, for life.
But when I heard that lyric this afternoon, a familiar (though dormant) pain shot through my heart like a flaming arrow. I instantly made the connection.
…my eyes are welling up as I type this…
I did indeed have another soulmate, of the friendship variety.
Way back in my late 20s, I was married with two young children, but at the same time, I was incredibly lonely. In one of the most profound, heart-stopping moments of my life, I heard the voice of God. Not audible, but recognizable all the same; and He told me He was bringing a friend “like no other” into my life. For months, I wracked my brain and was on hyper-alert, trying to figure out who this friend was or could be. Did I already know her? Would I recognize she was the one? How would I know?
Then I met Ingrid.
She was a recent immigrant from Holland, nearly 6 feet tall, blonde, and spoke in a heavy Dutch accent, usually with unsettling boldness. I met her at a welcome party hosted by my church, who had just hired her husband as our youth pastor. We shared a conversation about adoption (I’m an adoptive mom and her sister has 3 adopted kids) and I thought she was nice. That was pretty much it.
Not long after that, however, she asked me to be a part of her worship team, even though she hadn’t a clue whether or not I could sing. But she seemed confident in me. So, I did. Before long, she was inviting me to her house to hang out and talk, and she made it clear she wanted to know “the real” me — something I had not experienced before in a friendship.
Because the “real me” was a real mess. Really.
But she wasn’t intimidated. She never seemed to be intimidated by anything, actually, and I admired that. And thus began our friendship, through what would probably be the most formative years of both of our lives.
We raised our kids together. I spent so much time hanging out on her couch, laughing, crying, drinking coffee (and later, wine,) that my husband (you know, the soulmate) sometimes wondered when I’d ever be coming home. We were pretty inseparable. It was the most natural, symbiotic, give-and-take relationship I had ever had outside my marriage.
She saw the real me. Like, the real me underneath what I thought was the real me. And she loved who she saw. She called out every good thing she identified in me and blessed it. She never, ever shied away from telling me the truth or telling me where I needed to grow. I didn’t always like it, but I needed it. She loved me unconditionally and without reserve, and I loved her the same way.
Those were years of growth, of change, of ridiculously hilarious capers, and even tragedy, on occasion. Always in the back of my mind (where you stuff the things you don’t want to face,) I knew that one day, she would have to leave. She and her husband weren’t citizens, and eventually, their work visas would run out and they’d move on.
When she left the country, I thought my heart broke so completely it would never mend. For the next several years, we talked on the phone at least weekly, sometimes more. We visited a couple times a year, and we watched each other’s kids grow and change over Facebook.
Never in my darkest dreams did I think she would die. Never.
But she did.
She got cancer and it was diagnosed late. We squeezed every bit of love and friendship and time out of those last couple of years. Neither of us had regrets, and for that, I’m grateful. Ingrid fought hard through it all and died with the same grace and spirit she lived out every single day of her life.
She was my soulmate.
It’s been nearly 6 years and I still ache when I say her name. I am blessed with a circle of beautiful, amazing friends that I love very much, but no one…nothing…has filled the void she left.
These past 6 years have been the hardest years of my life (even apart from her dying,) and they have been harder still because I’ve faced them without her.
I miss crying on her shoulder. I miss laughing until we could barely breathe. Her voice, her reassurance. Her presence.
God, I would give anything to hug her again.
I remember hugging her the last time, knowing it would have to sustain me for the rest of my life until we meet again on the other side. But it just wasn’t long enough. I didn’t have enough time.
We didn’t have enough time.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so very grateful. Not everyone gets to have a soulmate, let alone two, in this lifetime. But in this crazy, unprecedented time we’re in, the grief hits all the heavier.
And so here I am, letting just enough out as I write as to not drown in my own tears or sink into a pit of despair. Each time this grief hits, I need to give it room to do its thing, and then gently screw the cap back on the bottle, to be opened at another time.
I would never choose to have our friendship cut short, but there is something almost sacred about losing someone you love this way. It’s like that love is suspended, frozen in time, building in a giant crescendo, awaiting the ultimate resolution of the chord when we meet again in heaven. And I know we will.
I choose to see the beauty in my current pain.
In the grief, in this time of global trauma, I choose to embrace that beauty. Not to celebrate the pain; that would be masochistic. But there is a tragic beauty we shouldn’t miss:
The coming together of friends, families, nations, strangers.
The kindness and goodwill that inevitably emerges amidst the darkness.
The songs that celebrate happier times and the love of good friends.
The reminders of the things and the people we hold dear.
The soulmates we have, or had, or haven’t met yet.
I’m grateful today for this reminder. And to gain at least a little understanding of why the pain of Ingrid’s loss is so deep and all-encompassing when it hits.
She was my soulmate. And she’s gone.
Life has gone on after her, but it’s never been the same. God forbid it ever should be. This is true also for our current pandemic crisis. We grieve for the losses — all of them — for the lives, the freedoms, the plans we’ve made, the celebrations we’ve missed. But again, there’s beauty and a whole host of things we are learning and prioritizing in the midst of our grief. Indeed, life will most certainly go on after all of this is over, but it’ll never be the same.
God forbid it ever should be.
One day when this cheer dies down — stay —
You are my soulmate
For eternity, keep staying here
You are my soulmate
– from “Friends,” Map of the Soul 7, BTS