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How To Make Friends When Words Don’t Work (Pt 2)

Yesterday I started to tell you the story of the landlords who turned into our friends. Even though we shared very few of the same kinds of words. One word we did understand was “Scheist.” Only, I’ve since learned, thanks to one of my beautifully awesome German friends, that I can’t even cuss correctly in German. For the word is actually “Scheisse.” But, well, you get the drift. You can read that post here to catch up.


We showed up at 3, because I did my math and figured out what 15:00 meant in German. (Who knew Germany would help strengthen my math skills?)

We brought gifts for each of them. So they would remember. So they could know how special they will always be to our family. What an integral part of our time here they were. Even if only for those first few months.

She made two cakes and coffee. I learned the name of the bundt-cake looking thing, but I’ve forgotten already. So you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say it was beautiful.  But the one with the strawberries and the cream and the almonds – that’s the one I chose.

They offered coffee and tea and water and beer. We offered our friendship and support in the form of sitting with them at their outside table, on the top of a mountain in Northern Bavaria. Our Deutsch a bit better, we conversed a little and laughed a lot.

Still, there was so much we could not say. So many words I wanted to share. So many questions like how long? What happened? When did they find the tumor that now grows inside of her brain?

I honestly did not expect her to look so good. I had even prepared my children for the way she might look. The sick she might portray.

We had prayed before we went there. Prayed for healing, of course. And for Jesus to shine through the words we did not know.

Somehow not knowing the language freed us up to just sit and not feel like we had to say things we wouldn’t have known how to express anyway.

I’ve been with dying people before and felt this guilt for not saying what I think they need to hear. Because I have no idea what they need. No idea what I could possibly say that might help them as they deal with inoperable cancer, impending death.

But this time, my reason for silence had nothing to do with choice. I literally did not know the words.

And somehow that helped me just enjoy our German friends’ company. Just talk about what we could. Say words we could actually communicate. Laugh with them and enjoy the sunshine we sat under.

When we gave her the scarf, she broke down and cried. I wanted so badly to let her know we were praying. To talk about her fears. To say something profound that would point her to Jesus and let her know death doesn’t have to be scary.

But all I could do was sit there. Pray silently that somehow in the void of my word-less company, God would speak. That He might point to Himself. Pull her into His peace.

We sat there and watched. And she cried. And our hearts poured out in the form of love we could not put into words. We didn’t even try to put it into words.

I did say what likely sounded something like “You so special us to. We pray.”

Then I shut my mouth because, really my wordlessness was better.

And what’s the difference between a foreign-speaking German who is dying and a native American who understands my every word? I mean, what do you say to anyone who faces such numbered days? Even if I spoke fluent German, what the heck would I say?

I tend to believe words would not have worked whether in English or Deutsch or Mandarin Chinese.

The conversation turned to kangaroos. (Because, really, doesn’t every afternoon Sunday visit include such topics?) And we decided together to take a drive to find the kangaroos that live in the middle of Bavaria. “Only 10 minutes’ drive.” He assured us.

The adventure that ensued will someday be another blog post, no doubt.

But love grew more clear as we drove those back German roads to Pottenstein and Gossweinstein, me in the driver’s seat, our German-speaking friend driving from the back shouting “left, no right” in his Franconian-dialected German. Our friendship no doubt deepened in those hours together. The words left unsaid spoke more clearly than the thousands of German words I do not know.


When we said goodbye later, she broke down again. I hugged her and told her “We pray. You special.” And she spoke about the living she will do in these days. I did not understand any but one of the words.


It means heavy. Difficult. Hard.

I agreed.

So, so schwer. In so many ways.

17 Thoughts on “How To Make Friends When Words Don’t Work (Pt 2)

  1. I am glad you were there. With your big heart your company could give her comfort for a while. It is hard to be on the outside too. Wanting to help, not knowing how. You explained it all very well. Thank you for sharing.

  2. First, let me say how well your photos captured the area. Living in a different country where we are without language demands the most basic type of communication, often the best. It’s without fluff and sentiment. Difficult, yes; but, the most direct.

    This certainly was a different/difficult circumstance to be in. The fact that you did not know what they needed probably worked to your/their advantage. Words get in the way (to quote Gloria Esteban). “My wordlessness was better” – wise.

    God’s Word (Jesus) was already communicating on your behalf.

    • Ha! Gotta’ love that Gloria Esteban. 🙂 Shelley, oh I so badly hope it’s true what your wrote: that Jesus was already communicating for me. Thank you for that hope. Truly.

  3. I’m without words…and this was written in my native language. There’s just nothing to say or write, but you blessed me this morning, as I’m sure you must have blessed your friends, so, so much.

  4. Your words feel like a hug, Kathleen. Thank you for them. 🙂

  5. Linda on May 8, 2013 at 4:33 am said:

    My heart was heavy and my eyes were filled with tears when I read this today. I know that God will somehow speak to your dear friends, he already did last summer through all of you and again last Sunday!! I will be praying for them, knowing what they face, yet also knowing that you were a breath of fresh air for them, you were placed there last year for a specific reason, to be their friends and now to be their intercession prayer warriors! God is good in all things, that is truth and our hope!!

    • Wow! You just nailed that truth! “You were placed there last year for a specific reason, to be their friends and now to be their intercession prayer warriors!” Thank you, Mom. I hope I will be faithful to the calling God has called me to with this!

      • Linda on May 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm said:

        I am sure you will do the task set before well…and now all of us who have heard the story and the need can be prayer warriors also..for her and for you! Love you…

  6. Beautiful. 🙂 It is schwer! Unknown futures, goodbyes, inoperable cancers, feeling like you are incompetent on a ton of levels…and the list goes on. But thankfully He knows, He loves us and we can trust that He is faithful. I know that living overseas for me, has exposed my sins in greater and deeper ways- but it has also shown me in greater and deeper ways how much the Father loves me. I pray that this experience has done the same for you.

    • Yes!! I feel this year like God keeps peeling off layer after layer of myself and revealing how absolutely utterly I need Him. For every.thing. And I love how you say it’s shown you how much He loves you. Thank you.

  7. I am so touched by this. It was unbelievable. Thank you for sharing something so personal, yet so meaningful. Thank you.

    • Anne, I can’t tell you how many more words I have inside about it all — but I just can’t get them out. Not even in English. I hope that makes sense. I think it’s actually kind of a gift that I don’t have the words. So I’ll just shut up. (Not always an easy thing to do for this big-mouthed woman called me.)

  8. Love this. yes, hard. And so worth the effort of putting into English words. Well done.

  9. I spent the last week with 3 dying people Brianna. Sometimes, just silence is better, Brianna.This was a wonderful post.

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