I was a mother of three young children. She was the mom of three teenagers.
I was a newcomer to the Midwest. She was a bonafide Midwesterner.
I tended to be overly talkative and yelled at my kids. She choose her words carefully and was soft-spoken.
And she was my friend. Close friend. The kind of friend who would come to your rescue when needed. The kind of friend you could confide in without worry that your problem would be blabbed all over the community. The kind of friend that felt like a sister.
Thirty-some years ago, Papa and I were new to the suburbs, fresh out of military life. He hit the ground running with his new career choice. We purchased our very first house and started making it our home.
High on our list of priorities was finding a church where we would fit in and we succeeded, even though it was a small congregation consisting mainly of older folks. They welcomed us with open arms and we developed a solid friendship with a couple who just happened to live not far from us in the same suburb.
I don’t remember the exact moment Papa and I met my kind-hearted friend and her jovial husband, but oh, I do remember the many sweet memories we made with them. Church gatherings, church camp outings, lots of dinners and birthday celebrations, backyard bar-be-cues, pumpkin picking, hay rides, and just visits between good friends.
My poised and lovely friend with a heart of gold and her fun-loving husband became some of our closest companions. They were abroad for a year when our second child was born, and we missed them terribly. A happy reunion followed their return to the United States.
They shared our joy when our third child arrived, and their teenage girls became not only our little ones’ favorite babysitters, but special to us as we loved them like family. We still share that bond today with these three special women.
My friend, a devoted pre-school teacher/director, created so many interesting and fun activities for my children. Carving names on still green pumpkins in our friends’ garden to come back later when the pumpkins were ripe and pick one that had your very own name on it delighted our children. They loved going to our friends’ home.
In her always thinking of others way, my friend saved my sanity on more than one occasion. Trying to care for three rambunctious children with a traveling husband and no family nearby sometimes proved exhausting and trying for me.
So I jumped at the suggestion she made that their family keep our three young ones overnight, so Papa and I could have some grown-up time and a night on the town by ourselves. I honestly am not sure who had the better time, our children or us!
It wasn’t the only time she came to my rescue. On my birthday, she took my children to her home so I could enjoy a little peace and quiet and while they were there, she helped them bake and decorate a cake for me.
Her entire family helped us move from our small house to a bigger one in another suburb of the city. They helped me pack our belongings, watched our children (even with chicken pox at the time) while we loaded up our household goods, physically helped us move furniture and boxes, and set up the beds so we could sleep in our new house that night.
Those were just a few of the thoughtful ways my friend and her family loved us. And I loved her back so much, not just for the ways she helped me but because of her servant’s heart and her sweet and kind personality.
She was a lifetime kind of friend and her husband was a wonderful friend to mine. I thought I would have more time to spend with her and hoped some of her endearing qualities would rub off on me. But that wasn’t the case.
Papa received a job promotion/transfer that would take us from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. Leaving our friends was extremely difficult for me because it was like leaving family.
Shortly before we boarded an airplane to our new home out West, we joined our friends for dinner in their home. They greeted us with a ‘goodbye, good luck, we’ll miss you’ sign (the above photo) and we departed with a few tears and promises to always keep in touch.
And that we did. We kept our friendship alive despite the distance. After six years in the west, Papa and I made the life-changing decision to quit the job, sell the house, and move all the way across the country to our home state to be closer to family. And our Midwest friends graciously opened their home to us to spend the night there on our journey eastward.
We arrived at their home on a Sunday afternoon and they surprised us with a picnic with all of our old church family in attendance. What joy it was to visit with them all, and it felt like we had never left.
That was almost 20 years ago. Since then much has transpired.
A phone call shocked us to hear that my friend’s dearly loved husband suddenly and very unexpectedly passed away. My heart ached for her and her daughters and we grieved for our friend whose life was cut so short so soon after retiring from teaching.
Our letters became once-yearly at Christmas time, but my gracious friend and I still kept in touch and with the emergence of Facebook, I and all three of my children kept contact with her three daughters.
We even enjoyed a visit here in our home from my beloved friend a few years after her husband passed away. Again, it seemed like we had never been parted. Conversation was always so easy and so enjoyable.
She journeyed here to see us one more time with her oldest daughter and grand-daughter for the wedding of our oldest daughter almost five years ago – the last of our three weddings that year.
Seeing those friends step into our church prior to the ceremony brought tears of happiness to my eyes. I think that was one of the most beautiful characteristics of my friend – she loved making others happy.
It was delightful to introduce them to family and friends at the reception. An added gift was visiting with them the next day as well, reminiscing and just enjoying each other’s company as we always have.
You see time and distance never erases a blessed friendship. And like we do so often in life, I just expected there would be other times, other reunions, other opportunities to talk and share. But that wasn’t to be.
My friend, my dear and special friend, recently suffered a massive stroke, and while we all prayed for her and her family, she passed from this world to the next last week. It grieves my heart that I cannot attend her memorial service this weekend to celebrate the thoughtful and loving life she lived, hug her three daughters and three grand-daughters tightly in person, and be a source of support for them like their sweet mother and grandmother was for me all those years ago.
Instead all I can do is pray for their comfort and peace, thank the Lord for the blessing that was my treasured friend, and be grateful that she is reunited with her loving husband and most importantly, face to face with our Savior.
And so, I must say “Goodbye again, my friend, for now. I will miss you. But we will meet again someday. Until then, you will always have a place in my heart and in my memories. I am a better person because you were in my life.”
“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt