I was always thankful when she encouraged me to do crazy things, even when it didn't end well. We all need a friend who will hold our hand as we jump off cliffs! Her teenage motto of "Life is short, take chances" often led us down wonderful paths of adventure...sometimes scary, nail-biting moments but always shaking our heads, thankful we survived and our parents DID NOT find out what shenanigans we were up to.
Some of my clearest memories, involve windows down, feet up, riding through our beautiful East Tennessee country side singing at the top of our voices this song from a cassette tape, tears streaming down our faces as we remembered that no matter what boy had broken our hearts, the Lord was watching and loving us with his unending love! She was one of the first persons to tell me about Grace, God's love and mercy and how to go to heaven... "you just have to believe, repent and ask for forgiveness" she said to me in the middle of Sophomore English class and made it sound so simple...too simple, I was sure it had to be more complicated than that.
We loved each other through a lot of life...being goofy kids, teenage angst, silly crushes, first loves, becoming wives, becoming Moms, the pain of miscarriages, the challenges of being Godly women... we talked about faith and forgiveness, when to stand up to people and when to humbly walk away. We talked about disciplining these children the Lord had given us... and how we covered our mouths when they did something we should be spanking them for, struggling not to laugh out loud instead. Our conversations which used to last hours, began occurring in hurried phone calls between changing diapers and fixing dinner... while in the car chauffeuring children, emails sent from work... Face book messaging became our primary mode of communication. Distance has separated us for the last 16 years, but there has never been a season of life that we didn't connect and it seem as if we had just spoken yesterday... no matter how long it had been. But, I always thought there would be one. more. time.
Her children were the light of her life... her reason for living... and her reason for seeking more opinions and seeing more specialists. She abhorred them having to see her suffer, but she trusted the Lord had a plan for even that pain. She wrote to me about Gabby, her one baby I got to be there for the birth of... hearing her first wails from the hospital hallway while Cathy, her Momma, and I hugged with tears streaming down our faces:
"It's so hard to believe she's married. Now she wants lots of babies. I'm just glad she's found love and happiness. I'm leaving for Vanderbilt tomorrow. My appt is Wed. I'm praying that I get to take the two new drugs they talked about on my last visit. I just want to feel better. And be able to enjoy my family. Pray for me. And strength for my family. I love you. And miss you."
The Unaka High School graduating class of 1988 voted her the girl "Most Likely to Succeed". She was full of sass, willpower and smarts. Just tell her "you can't" and she would show you she could. We knew she would achieve great things. That never dimmed, although she dropped out of college briefly for a few years, she returned and got her BS in Nursing and then an MBA. She was successful in her field of Nursing and Administration. But her biggest success story, in my opinion, is that she loved well and even more... that she suffered well.
There has been a huge outpouring of shared stories of recent conversations with long time friends. Time and again it has been shared she looked for blessings, was an encouragement to the one seeking to encourage her, counted each day a miracle, didn't complain but used her illness to love and support others. She had the God given ability to show mercy to others as they were trying to lift her up. You never came away from a conversation with her without feeling hopeful and having her point to a God who loves, who provides, who protects, who comforts. She used her illness, her suffering as an opportunity to minister to others. And that my friends, is the definition of "Well-done". She will be missed. I'm sure there will be many times I pick up the phone in the coming days to call... and then remember she is at Home, at rest, whole and healthy again and for that I will be thankful.
|A friend's collage...|