My friend died today.
(Even after 10 minutes of staring at that one sentence, I still don't know what to think or how to begin processing that.)
I am not a stranger to people dying. Life in general and cancer in particular have a way of bringing people front and center that die in horrendously sad circumstances, and way too soon. This is most definitely the case with my friend.
My friend chose to end her life today.
I am not quite sure what do with that. As the hours and days go on, and heartfelt Facebook posts are made, and people rally around her husband and son, tiny bits of the puzzle will fall into place. Small details of her story will emerge--a story that is not mine to tell.
But I do have my own stories--
--We met on our very first night of college at the Baptist Student Union--me as a Freshman, and she was a Junior College transfer. It was also the night she met her future husband, but that would take a couple of years to make official. We were in several Bible studies together over the course of our college time together. A few years ago, I came across some old Bible Study journals from those BSU days, tucked away in the corner of my old closet at my parent's house. The very first prayer request entry was a request my friend had made for her then boyfriend/later husband--something about wisdom about a major. As I flipped through the journal that day, I was reminded of what a pray-er she was. One that I learned from by example. I told her about that some time later, letting her know that I would show it to her one day.
--My friend was one of the most genuine people I have ever met. She had a sweet Southern drawl and a 'bless your heart' mindset that was evident in every interaction with her. We reconnected about 15 years or so after college, when a chance meeting at a local library brought us back into each others lives and she introduced me to the homeschool group and people that continue to be part of a tribe that still claim me as their own.
--My friend didn't forget the seasons of struggle. No matter how many years have passed since my automobile accident that CHANGED. EVERY. THING, she would ask how I was doing. Really doing. When one of my children got cancer, and then recovered, and then relapsed, my friend knew to still care and ask the behind-the-scenes questions. And when another child decided to go his own way and fell off the traditional church radar, my friend was one of only two people that ever told him that he was missed. I thanked her for that, in several different ways. I am so glad that I did. Her simple text months ago sent me on a journey of re-evaluating the ways that I interact with and encourage other teenagers in my own circle--the ones that are forgotten or have slipped off the radar and are just desperate for someone to notice and care. My friend reminded me how simple it is to do that.
That old Bible Study journal still exists, now in a box in the deep recesses of my own closet. One day I will run across it, and my mind will go right back to my friend--a reminder of her genuine heart and her crazy deep love for her people. I will pass it on to her husband and son, hopefully serving as some small reminder for them of the true heart of my dear friend. Because no matter what those puzzle pieces are that were part of my friend's last moments, I know--I KNOW--that her amazing love for those two, and so many others that she has touched over the years, did not die with her.
I hope it will bring them some measure of peace--the kind that my sweet friend is without a doubt resting in right now, in the arms of her precious Savior.