Meanderings: I have been thinking a lot about a friend. It happens to me sometimes – especially when the sky is cerulean blue, the temperature is neither cool nor hot, and the sun shines down with a white crisp brightness. It’s the kind of day that makes you want to put your car top down, crank up “Freebird” on the stereo and push the speed limit. That was the kind of day it was yesterday. It was that same kind of spring day when I last saw my friend. When I started my Word press blog site I decided I would only write when and if the Lord led me…and well, even though I have been thinking about her a lot, I wasn’t going to write about her because it is too personal. Also too painful. Then, I ran into her brother with his family tonight. Very random. I haven’t seen him for at least 8 years either. Guess I am being led…so here goes.
I met “Lou” in 7th grade, through a friend of a friend. She was tall and skinny, all legs and arms, with huge hazel-brown and green eyes, a chiseled turned-up nose and a trouble-making impish smile. When she laughed, you couldn’t help but laugh too because her laugh was so infectious! Lou was an adventurer. Our friendship included about 12-13 girls who all wove in and out of each others’ lives through middle school, high school, college and beyond. We were the Rebel Girls. For the sake of brevity (and our reputations) ;), I won’t go into all the shenanigans we pulled, but suffice it to say that Lou was always fun, always kind and for all the many years I knew her, I NEVER ever heard her say anything negative about anyone. Lou was that rare combination of beauty inside and out, who understood the saying “to have a friend, you must be a friend”. This is a lady, and I use that term exactly, who loved her people so very well. Lou eventually married her best friend, moved south, had a couple of great kids and settled in for a “happily ever after” life.
It just didn’t work out that way. You see, my sweet friend inherited a deadly gene. The BRCA gene. Shortly after the birth of her second child, she found the tell-tale evidence of it in her breast, a small lump that her own doctor missed. But Lou didn’t. From that time on, Lou told me that her full-time job was to stay alive….and she did it with passion. She changed to an entire organic diet, kicked up her exercise routine, doted on her kids and husband and followed her docs advice to perfection. She also always kept a positive, spirit-filled outlook. Supported by tons of family, friends and her Rebel Girls, Lou fought off the cancer and was finally given a clean bill of health. Lou had thankfully moved back to the area by this time, so several of us celebrated with a girl’s lunch and breathed a sigh of relief that it was over. Just a few short months post the good news however, Lou noticed a pain in her lower back. That ugly malicious disease was back, and this time like a wild animal running rampant through her body. Lou was devastated. Her family was rocked. But she took it on – and stared it down again. I don’t think I have ever prayed for someone so hard in my life.
A very private person, especially when it came to her illness, Lou was loathe to have anyone “bothered” by what was going one with her. Oh pashaw! That wasn’t going to stop the Rebel Girls from lovin’ on our Lou! Now sweetly renamed by Lou’s mother-in-law, Sunny as “Lou’s Girls”, we rallied. Meals were organized, family schedules were covered, emails, cards, more prayers, and one of Lou’s oldest and closest friend’s (the one who introduced me to her in 7th grade), would go to the hospital and sit with her during chemo transfusions. We helped our friend as much and as often as possible. Some of Lou’s Girls were able join the celebration of her 40th birthday with her and her family too. It was a stunning crisp night with a full harvest moon staring down. Lou was full of hope; she looked gorgeous in her faux fur vest and white turtle-neck and jeans. Thinner, but still happy, I prayed she was finally done with this.
It was that same kind of sunny crisp day while I was driving to carpool when I called Lou (yes, hands-free) to check on her one day in late February. Surprisingly, she answered the phone on the first ring. She said she was waiting for the doctor to call back. It didn’t register with me. So I told her I wanted to come see her and bring her dinner. She told me no, that she didn’t want me to see her this way. I tried to make her laugh and said, “Okay, we can put a bag on your head and we can talk that way.” She giggled a little and then her voice cracked. She told me that she had some decisions to make. The cancer had entered her bones. It was in her lungs. She was going to go to hospice. It is true what they say that when we are shocked, everything goes in slow motion. My head started buzzing, I felt like I was going to vomit, and my eyes filled up with tears. I couldn’t breathe. Never in a million years had I considered the fact that Lou would lose her 7-year battle with breast cancer. I unknowingly shot past my exit and continued for a long time on the parkway, not even realizing where I was going. I just knew I needed to keep talking to her, supporting her, praying over her on the phone. Lou shared with me some other things that day, things that are too private for this blog. But even in the middle of this very painful conversation, Lou was still able to use her words to love on me, and I did the same with her.
A few days later, the call went out. Lou’s husband asked all “her girls” to come to hospice to say goodbye. Two by two, we came to her bedside to love on her for the last time. Wouldn’t you know, lying there in the bed – she still looked beautiful. Her dark hair thick and curly, framing her porcelain features. The last two things I did for my friend was pray to God to take her to him without any more pain, and I told my friend of nearly 30-years that I loved her and always would. I still miss her.
To say that I was furious with God after Lou’s death is an understatement. An incredible wife, the mother of two young children, friend to the unfriendly, kind-hearted, magnanimous and full of life, I found myself shouting at Him, “I mean really God, What is up with that? Did you REALLY need to take one of the best so soon”?
God’s Straight Path:
My anger and sorrow lasted for months. I had to pray a lot, and for lengthy periods to move beyond it. I prayed constantly that God would heal her family and fill in the gaps that Lou’s absence left in their lives. Over time, He did that. He gave them a new wife and mom (who is wonderful), another brother and sister and eventually a sense of peace.
I can only imagine what kind of personal pain her family went through. “Lou’s Girls” continued to support them as long as they needed us, which was cathartic to be able to do something for them. The Girls came together and with the assistance of Lou’s extended family (and especially Sunny) we built a huge scrap book of Lou’s life for her children, so they would never forget what kind a woman she was. Sunny shared with us Lou’s favorite scripture as well: 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31. It is displayed prominently in the scrap book.
I don’t presume to know what it is like to live with cancer, but for Lou, it made her even more resolute. She adopted the saying, “Taste the Day” as a reminder to her and others to slow down and value each day that God gives us. Even so, this side of heaven I will always wonder why my sweet friend is gone… but without sounding saccharine, I truly do KNOW I will see her again. Every now and then, Lou visits me in a dream. There were various things that happened to many of us just after her death, which really seemed like she was reaching out to tell us she was doing fine. It is typical of her, always worrying about others. However, this I know, friends in Christ are friends forever. Her faith ran deep, and she leaned on it daily. I will see her again and hear her infectious laugh.
Lou left a legacy of goodness, kindness and exemplified what courage under pressure looks like. Her life here seemed too short, but her time with her Creator is long. There is no question in my mind that her strength has been renewed. Though her days were numbered on this earth, (as all of ours are), Lou used her days to love well and live well and show us all how to truly Taste Each Day. I have never forgotten that lesson.
Enjoy your day- hope it is a Tasty one!
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:20-21
If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made. Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin. Job 14:14-16
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John5:13-14