Celebrating friendship in grief

January 15 marks the day when my friend Charity watched frantically, hysterically as her husband and three-year-old son were swept out to sea by a sneaker wave.

Every year, on the anniversary of the Worst Day Ever, Charity is determined to get as far above sea level as possible.


Photo of Charity (by Chylynn Barklow)

Last year, her friends booked a room at Mt. Hood’s historic lodge and took Charity snow-shoeing up the mountain.

This year, with Charity in grad school at University of Arizona, the three young women—Brittany, Elisha, and Chylynn—flew to Tucson to be with her.


Elisha, Charity, Brittany, and Chylynn, left to right

Back when Chylynn first heard about Charity’s horrific loss, she knew immediately who she had to contact. “I told Brittany and Elisha that Charity needed us. They did not disappoint. We came together and I found that our childhood bond was as strong as ever.”

Charity said she had some anxiety on the anniversary this year, but mostly she was distracted, surrounded by her people, beginning the day with a hike.



The four young women stayed up late each night, talking heart-to-heart through a dozen different topics, including their unique friendship that has grown stronger since high school.

“Charity’s tragedy has tested this,” Elisha said. “To love and laugh and play together is different from watching a friend suffer a pain that you cannot laugh away. To be there in the darkest hours is just as beautiful in its own way.”

Charity’s husband, Jayson, used to tell her that home was where she was. They were each other’s home

“I lost that when I lost Jay and Woody,” Charity said. “But being with the girls this week felt like being home.”

Ann Voskamp, one of my favorite authors, wrote this:

We are always lost until our heart makes its home inside of someone else. Our lives are unfulfilling if we only let our hearts fill us, instead of filling each other’s broken places.

The three high school girlfriends who, last week, flew from Oregon and Northern California to be with Charity, know how to fill broken places.

But there’s more to the story.

The story behind the story

My friends, Jim & Debbie, furnished an apartment for Charity last year as a young widow and bereft mom, sleeping on an old mattress on the floor, while trying to finish her Physics degree, and get her research published, and write a National Science Foundation grant — all of which she accomplished while dealing with post-traumatic stress symptoms.

They also paid for the truck rental when a couple of us girls helped move Charity from University of Oregon to astrophysics grad school in Arizona.

Jim & Deb ask about Charity regularly. When they learned the second anniversary of the tragedy was approaching and that Charity’s three girlfriends were hoping to be with her, they said: “Let us know if anyone needs help with airline tickets. That’s the kind of tangible thing we’d love to do.”

Text messages flew back and forth. Funds were transferred electronically. And airline tickets were purchased.

And then this text from Charity:

It takes a very thoughtful person to send support for the people who are being so supportive of me. I love that.

I’ve thought about Charity this past week more than normal — knowing how the pain still shadows her, knowing that this second anniversary of the Worst Day Ever was harder than the first.

And I’ve thought about the ways Charity has reached out to other people, even from her own fractured-heart place.

Most people don’t know that she honored her son, Woody, on his birthday by focusing her attention outwardly, purchasing several of his favorite books and asking the bookstore manager to randomly distribute them to children on that day.

She also did something similar to honor her husband, Jayson, on his birthday.

More wisdom from author Ann Voskamp:

Love is not that we get to feel something, but that we give ourselves to someone. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back. … Giving, not getting, is the way.

This is exactly what these four beautiful young women had a part in doing for each other on this significant, life-shattering day — giving of themselves to each other.

And this is what my friends Jim & Debbie did by helping provide flights for three young women they’d never met, in support of one hurting widow they’d briefly met and had taken into their hearts.

Love is that we get to give ourselves to others.


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  1. So very touching! This is putting feet to our love. May God continue to bless this friendship, reaching out to others in pain.

    • I like how you said that, Julie: “… putting feet to our love.” Ann Voskamp asks the question, “If love is an action verb, then what action verb is it?” Controlling? Self-loving? Manipulating? The answer, of course, is ‘giving.’

  2. Beautiful story of resurrection! Thanks for sharing! I especially loved hearing about giving our gifts away to show our love!

  3. Qiwen

    <3 love the update and the pictures

  4. Nora Weed

    Good day Marlys, this week our family lost a dear friend. We knew her in more than one way but for me personally she was my social worker during cancer treatment. Her husband and my son are friends. I want to share with you how my son gave his love to his friend during his wife’s memorial. When my son called his friend to see if there was anything he could do for him, his friend said he only had one request “that my son come to the memorial”. We went together as a family but when we arrived my adult son found his blind friend and gave him a long huge hug. Then for the next three hours he quietly stood by his friend giving him his love the best way he knew how. He cared deeply for his friend’s suffering but without saying a word he gave him comfort. Ann Voskamp’s words fit beautiful here: Love is not that we get to feel something, but that we give ourselves to someone. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back. …Giving, not getting, is the way. Thank you for sharing your kind heart & mind! Nora

    • Oh, Nora … I think we know the same person. I’m currently out of town (and will be for several more weeks), but I used to work at the cancer center with a social worker – a dear friend who died unexpectedly this past week. The bereaved husband is blind. What are the chances we’re talking about the same person?

      I love that your son stood with this heart-broken man, loving him in his own quiet, supportive, steady way. Thank you for sharing your son’s part in this story.

  5. Victoria Destiny Walker

    Oh, Marlys, Thank you so much for posting this wonderful account of love and friendship between Charity and the girls. I so appreciate the love that you’ve given to each one of them over the last 25 years. I especially have appreciated your love and support and encouragement in Elisha’s life (for the readers, Elisha is my daughter).
    I’m so happy that you are continuing to help people live a renewed and repurposed life.
    I love you and hold you in my most loving thoughts.

  6. Audra Blansett

    This is such a sweet recap, tragedy that she has been brave enough to live past and endure life. I didn’t realize this story involved a local. My mom knew Charitys parents, Debbie and Woody. We bought an old Ford pickup from them at their house back in probably 2000?

  7. I can’t imagine this young woman’s pain. I almost lost my husband, Kelly, this November when a woman filled with drugs and alcohol crashed into him at 60 mph. If God hadn’t miraculously rescue them both I would be in Charity’s place right now. And she has the added heartache of seeing her son and husband go. I praise God for her friends and others who are loving not just with words, but with tangible proof. Thank you for this inspirational story Marlys.

  8. Grace Lawson

    God bless all of you and give you His peace. Love and Prayers, Grace

  9. What a beautiful story, what a beautiful truth. Love isn’t just about a feeling, it is about giving yourself away to another. I was talking to a couple friends about that very thing last night. Thank you for sharing this story!

    • You summed this up so well, Desiree: “Love isn’t just about a feeling, it is about giving yourself away to another.” And the return on our investment is worth so much. Thank you.

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