Where Stories Intersect


Photo Credit: Rainier Martin Ampongan


I wouldn’t call us close friends. We had gone to school together our entire childhood. I remember her easygoing attitude, the big grin and contagious laugh. We had mutual friends, sat in some of the same classes and attended a lot of sleepovers together. Still, as adults our lives went in different directions and I didn’t give a second thought to us crossing paths again someday.

Until we did. In 2006, I saw Julie* for the first time in several years. She was one of two classmates who showed up to pay their respects at my dad’s funeral. They weren’t there for me necessarily. In recent years, they’d actually gotten to know my dad. Although years apart in age, they were part of the same party crowd.

Julie showed me a lot of support that day. I remember several times she came up to me with a hug and kind words. It was the Julie I remembered. Laid back but sincere. Knowing how our stories intersected, I was unsure of the proper response. The hard partying that forged a friendship between Julie and my dad had all but torn my family apart. A failed marriage after 25 years; the half-truths, all-out lies and broken promises. It was the effects of partying that had caused his untimely death. What was I to do with that reality?

A few years went by and we entered into the age of social media. Ultimately, Julie and I found one another on Facebook. Again, our friendship here wasn’t a personal one. We renewed our casual friendship online. We liked each other’s status updates and looked at photos of our kids. In a way I can’t quite explain though, I was thankful to have found her again. Somehow, she gave me a connection to my dad.

Julie passed away this past weekend. I, of course, found out through a friend of a friend. On Facebook. I immediately thought of her family, who I also knew. Of her daughters who I have not met but watched grow up in pictures these past few years. At this time, the cause of her death is unknown, and I sit with that.

All of this settles somewhere deep in my soul. We were never tight, Julie and I, but I felt a great deal of affection for those areas where our stories touched. The small town we both called home. The role of motherhood we both cherished. Our friends who have all found one another through this crazy phenomenon called Facebook. The fact that she spent more time with my dad in his final years than I did.

Now she’s gone. I didn’t know I would grieve so deeply. It’s words I struggle to express because you see, I didn’t really know her. It makes no sense I would feel such loss because a long-time acquaintance has left this world. But here’s what Julie teaches me. We’re connected to people at that exact point where our stories intersect.

That’s the beauty of story, if you listen closely in the telling. There are always pieces of our story that we have in common with others. Julie and I lived lives that were worlds apart really. However, it always stirred up emotions within me when she showed up on my Facebook wall. Sometimes happiness if she’d post something that was just so Julie. Other times sorrow when I learned about various consequences she endured due to her choices.

I hope you’ve found some peace my friend. I’ll continue to pray for your loved ones because I know a bit of the grief they’ll live with for the rest of their lives. Thank you for all you meant to me.



*Out of respect, the name has been changed.

Traci Rhoades
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15 thoughts on “Where Stories Intersect

  1. I get this Traci. I get the unlikely connection and surprising grief. I can’t explain it but you did that, best as anyone can I suspect. My life is world away from those we minister to but there is a connection because we are all broken people in need of grace. I found a piece of that connection here with you today. Thank you.

    • Thank you Debby for the “me too.” It was a vulnerable piece for me and I want folks to connect over it. I think life gains a whole lot of meaning when we find our connections with one another.

  2. We’re connected to people at that exact point where our stories intersect…. This is what I needed to hear today. So often I don’t know what to do with those connections. As Debby mentioned, we are all broken people in need of grace. Thanks for sharing your heart today. <3

    • Heidi, So much grace! I pray that for her family and friends. It helped to write about our connection. Writing always helps!

  3. Gives a new meaning to “friendships” of the past and even those people on our life’s today

    • Barbara, It does. We’re not in each others’ lives by accident for sure. We need to look for the connecting points and make them meaningful. It’s how we have the greatest impact!

  4. Beautifully written, and heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. We are all connected somehow, and loss is real.

    • Where would we be without hope? I did try to include that as well. It all helps me pay better attention to the point where I’m connected to others. There I can make a difference.

  5. This was a beautifully written piece that touched me because I recently lost a dear friend from college. Somehow when we lose someone who connects us to our past, it’s like losing a small piece of our own history in addition to the lose of someone we cared about. It’s also sobering when a contemporary dies because it reminds us of our own mortality, and how precious everyday truly is. My prayer is that you are comforted in your grief. Thank you for sharing this experience.

    • Jo-Ann, so well said. I’ve felt all those things too. I felt like I’d lost another piece of my dad, which I didn’t really understand until I started writing to process. I’m sorry for your loss as well.

  6. “Other times sorrow when I learned about various consequences she endured due to her choices.” I’ve been learning a lot about this for the past year, although I suspect I was more of the “Julie” than the “good guy” in the story. We just never know someone’s story until they tell us. We make so many assumptions about people without ever really getting to know them. It reminds me of that movie “Crash”. Really nice and thoughtful article, I’m sorry for your loss!

    • Thanks for your words here Leah. I know you’re a brave writer too. I haven’t seen that movie yet so I’ll add it to my list. May we learn to not assume we know anyone else’s story.

  7. A dear friend of mine committed suicide last fall. The tsunami of grief that poured out on social media from family, friends, and acquaintances reflected the deep sense of connection and resulting loss that we all felt… even those of us who hadn’t seen much of her in recent years. Your words, “Now she’s gone. I didn’t know I would grieve so deeply,” really struck me because I don’t think my friend had any idea how much, so many people, cared for her.

    • How sad Wendy! We can never understand what makes a person lose all hope like that. I want the connections I have with people to show them the love of Jesus and my acceptance. Grieving together.

  8. “We’re connected to people at that exact point where our stories intersect.” This is so true. It’s interesting how your lives intersected at so many different stages of life, often unexpected, and not always in the way you would choose. I’m not sure how I would have handled something like that, where she was part of the tearing apart of your family. But God gives so much grace, and I’m sure he poured it out on you to be able to have those later connections with her. Grieving is hard no matter which way you look at it. May God bless you and comfort and bring peace. The way you tell your story is beautiful!

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