Friday, June 27, 2008

Still Called Today

I lost a good friend earlier this month, but I didn't find out until nearly three weeks after her death. Her mother called on Saturday night, and I knew immediately that something had happened. People who live 5000 miles away and normally don't call...ever...well, when the phone rings and it's them, you know it can't be good news.

My friend died violently, needlessly. And when she moved away nearly three years ago, I had no idea it would be the last time I'd see her on this earth.

Living in a military area, we have a double-edged sword of friendship. People move into the area from all parts of the country. The hard part is saying goodbye, especially to the ones who become like family. All the while you're friends, you try not to think ahead to the time when Uncle Sam tells them to move. Usually that's about three years, sometimes more or less.

One of the things I remember about her was her musical laugh. How she loved to laugh. I can still hear her, "Oh, Sister Lynette!" when I said something funny or off-the-wall, and she'd go off into giggles. Sometimes I'd say something crazy just to crack her up. She was Hawaiian, short and round and bubbly, and beautiful. She loved children of all ages, and her son was the pride of her heart. When we first met him at barely 4 years old, he'd already memorized more Scripture than a lot of adults. Whenever we had an event at church, she was there pitching in and giving a hand. And she loved our youth. She wrote two plays, which the kids loved performing. And our kids loved her.

Her home was creatively decorated, clean, and full of love. Not perfect. Oh, no. The last four years or so were a struggle for her on some fronts, and I know she battled her demons. I wish I'd known how deep her battle was, to let her know that I would be there for her, and pray for her. We spent some great times together, her family and mine. We saw each other at our best, and at our worst. But we always forgave.

She was one of the greatest supporters of my writing, before I even had a single acceptance letter. One Christmas, I gave her a printed out copy of my still unpublished historical novel, and you'd think I'd given her gold.

I remember one night, shortly after her husband returned from a year-long tour in Iraq, they came for dinner and stayed very late. We sat there for hours, and he just shared about what he'd seen and experienced and his frustration with the slow process of helping an institutionalized people learn to govern themselves, and keep everyone safe. Later, with tears in her eyes, she told me the night they visited with us was good for him. "He really needed that," she said. I know she did love him, and was fiercely proud of him, no matter what.

Then about six months before they were transferred away, her husband brought his mother with Alzheimer's to live with them.

And gradually, our friendship changed. I feel like they left us before they moved away. When someone pulls away, what can you do? I wasn't sure at the time. But I was worried. They had so much to deal with, and I felt like they were cutting themselves off from all of us. Thinking back now, I wish I'd made more of an effort to keep in touch.

After they moved, we had her cell phone number, and that was it. (I didn't even know what town they lived in until I read the news articles about her death.) I knew she was going through a lot with a new home, a new town, trying to find a new church, and dealing with an ailing relative in the house full-time, plus a growing boy. One time when my husband called, she was "really busy." She had no time. And then we'd leave messages on voice mail every once in a while. Finally, the number didn't work anymore.

The last time we heard from them was Christmas day 2006. We got home from church to hear a message from the three of them bellowing into the answering machine, " Melikalikimaka! Merry Christmas! We love you guys! Happy Hanukkah!' And that was it.

Why this long story? Because there are some rifts that are worth trying to mend. There are some gaps worth closing. Don't put it off. For the longest time, I'd wondered how they were since that Christmas Day phone call. I probably could have found her mother's phone number or asked another church friend if they had any numbers. We could have tracked them down. But we didn't. And I regret all that I never said. Especially when a month ago they were heavy on our hearts, and we had no idea why.

It reminds me of the Steven Curtis Chapman song, Still Called Today...

"But while it's still called today, won't somebody make it right
Before the day slips into night and the moments waste away
While it is still called today, we've got to say the words
That are longing to be heard 'cause tomorrow may be too late
Go on and say what you need to say while it is still called today."

1 comment:

Rhonda said...

Lynette, This touched my heart on so many levels. I love you girl and think of you often. I'm sorry for your loss. If you need to talk, please email and we'll get on the phone. Hugs! Rhonda