Many of us are blessed with long-time friends – those people who we just can’t remember not being part of our lives. Those people who, no matter what life’s journey leads us through, we are able to hang on to the joys of knowing and loving. Those people who no longer live just down the road, but are now miles and miles away, limiting the conversations to phone calls, emails or whatever for long periods of time. Those people we know God put in our life.
This week God called one of those friends home, and the loss has hit me hard. Since hearing of her passing, I’ve had moments of deep sadness, moments of joy, and many moments in remembrance of our time together over the past 43 years or so. I loved her deeply and my heart just truly wants to hear her voice or receive a text message from her again.
She was always a vibrant, loving and caring woman. She would quite literally give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. She loved, gave advice, told me when I was wrong, forgave mistakes and was perhaps one of the most loyal women I’ve ever known. Her smile did indeed light the room and her laughter filled your soul.
We joined the Marine Corps together in 1981 while we were seniors in high school under what they called the “buddy program” back then. We were guaranteed to go to boot camp at the same time, and if possible to be in the same platoon. We graduated early, in January, and were off on our adventure to Parris Island in February. Our service sent us to different places after boot camp, so we didn’t see each other very often but kept in touch as frequently as possible over the years, and yet that friendship remained as strong as it was when we were teenagers so many years ago.
When she shared that cancer had returned after years of remission, she never once expressed anything but hope and determination. Along with laughing at memories and cherishing this time together, we talked of God and His providence, of her faith that when her time came she would stand with Jesus in heaven. She set goals – celebrate a birthday or holiday, attend her son’s wedding to his beautiful bride, enjoy this day or that – and she celebrated each of those goals she was able to meet.
A couple weeks ago she sent a package, and when I read her short message that was included, my heart knew she was nearing the end of her time here on earth. I spent quite a bit of time crying and praying before I even opened the envelope to see what was inside. These little mementos of our shared joy of service to our country will always be cherished, but more so those words, “I love you!!” that she wrote.
I’m sharing this story both to help me through my grief, and to remind you to cherish and build those friendships. Take the time to love, guide, correct, influence, forgive, help and remain loyal. This is what God has called us to do with and for each other. (Proverbs 17, Proverbs 18, Proverbs 27, Ecclesiastes 4)
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of this friendship and the years we had together. Help me to remember her and help my grief. Please give each of us the ability to be a true friend to someone and to cherish that friendship enough to build it on the principles found in your Word. Thank you for the hope of reunion together in heaven one day, please take care of my friend now. In Jesus’ Holy Name, I pray. Amen.