“A friend loves at all times…”
As summer quickly fades into autumn, I am reminded of the seasons in our life. The “spring“ of our journey stretches from childhood throughout the teen years when we are carefree and without responsibility. “Summer” begins with all its possibilities and promises. So quickly, summer is gone and we begin the “autumn” of life when, just as the leaves begin to change, so do our lives. Finally it is winter and the cold wind begins to blow– doors begin to close. Suddenly, most of life is in the past! But the good news is this: “everyday living, Jesus understands“. As the seasons have changed, God has always given me friends to do life with. While running on Tuesday morning, The Lord prompted me to share some of my friendships with you beginning with my first “real” friend. This is our story…
My very first deep friendship began in my sixth grade year. A pretty and quiet girl that I had known since we began first grade started attending my church, along with her family. We instantly became friends! As students in the same classroom, we shared a passion for reading. We would go to the library or bookmobile (does anyone remember?) and check out as many books as they allowed, which would always include a Lois Lenski book. This common interest bonded us, along with a love for music. We loved the “top 40” music of the day and started attending WVOK’s “Shower of Stars” (again, does that bring back memories?). We were just two star struck teen-age girls in love with Lou Christie and Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders! (Am I dating myself?) During junior high school, we were cheerleaders and enjoyed pizza at Pasquale’s on Friday evenings and movies at the Pitman Theatre. She drove her parents Volkswagon and we went everywhere together in High School–we could drive all week for a dollar! But our friendship was so much deeper than the fun times as teens.
Fast forward to 1973, my best friend was my maid of honor at our wedding. She could not have been happier for me that I found my life partner. Even though I was now married and she was single, we remained best friends. We didn’t have as much time to talk, but when we did, it was as if no time had passed- we just picked up where we had left off! I began teaching a ladies Sunday School Class and we enjoyed studying God’s Word together. She had an amazing knowledge of scripture and insights into Biblical truths. For the next decade plus, we continued to share our books, our music, and our everyday living at lunch, over the phone, or quick visits.
But in the late 1980’s she was handed devastating news of a rare blood disease. I watched as she suffered horrendous episodes of failing health and as her husband abandoned their marriage. But never once as the storms clouds gathered in her life did I see her lose her joy. How can that be? Her joy and hope were secure in her relationship with The Lord! Jesus Understands. She knew that she could take the cares and anxieties of this world to him and he understood. She knew that he had walked this earth and had experienced the same burdens, heartaches, and abandonment that she was facing. As her condition weakened, she decided to take the medical team’s advice and seek a bone marrow transplant in Seattle in the summer of 1996. While there, she became gravely ill and lapsed into a coma. I would call and her sisters would hold the phone to her ear as I read scripture and prayed. Even though unconscious, they said she would always respond to my voice. My best friend passed away in late August. She was only forty-two.
As I prepared to give the eulogy and sing the old hymn “Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine” at her memorial service, I thought about her godly character, and why she would choose me as a friend. We never had a cross word in thirty plus years. Why? Not because I am easy to get along with, but because she was. She allowed me to be the boss! She always applauded any successes that I had. She was my biggest cheerleader. She stood quietly in the shadows and allowed me to have my day in the sun, while she smiled and rejoiced with me. Not once did I ever sense one ounce of jealousy in our friendship. To this day, eighteen years later, I miss her beauty, her contagious smile, and her gentle and quiet spirit. Cathy taught me much about friendship. I pray that I never forget her lessons.
One of the many books Cathy gave me with its inscription that always brings tears
“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel”