I awoke this morning with your voice in my ear, but before I could make a true memory of the dream, it dissolved into vagueness. All I remembered was that I had heard your voice, and really, that was all I needed for this day.
My day was filled with thoughts of antique rose china, gingerbread, empty closets and exciting, far-flung mission fields. My day was filled with you, my friend.
I’ve never, ever known anyone quite like you! Your calm thoughtfulness was always a refuge for me; I knew I could call you any time with any problem and you’d go quiet on the other end, your mind racing, thinking of all the possibilities, and I knew to patiently wait–you were going to say something of real and true value if I could just endure that thoughtful silence! I never knew anyone else who did that–who took the time to actually think–to actually respond with the most considered, kind, and sensible answer. It was a gift, rare and beautiful, just as you were.
I remember complaining about my four-year-old being such a picky eater. You laughed softly, then thoughtfully tousled his hair, as you pronounced, “He’s much like John the Baptist, who preferred very simple foods.” Only you could turn a four-year-old’s obstinacy into a virtue!
Though I loved you dearly, you weren’t perfect. You had a real “thing” for china, or for dishes in general, really. And you were a relentless shopper when in pursuit of the perfect dishes! I’ll never forget the shopping trip to celebrate your 50th birthday. I pushed your wheelchair all around the mall, as we searched for your next set of china. You simply had to have a new set! You see, it was time to bless someone else with your present set! It was the twenty-sixth (twenty-sixth!) set of dishes you had bestowed on various friends, neighbors, relatives, and possibly virtual strangers. How delighted you were when you called me a few days later with the news that you’d found the recipient of your set of antique china–a sweet little girl in your neighborhood who might not truly appreciate the gift for many years to come. But you knew what you were doing, didn’t you? You knew that one day that little girl would grow into a woman who would unpack those lovely dishes, and would smile when she remembered the beautiful woman who gave her such a wonderful gift. And, knowing you, I’ll bet you told that little girl all about a man named Jesus.
Gingerbread: I can’t disconnect you from gingerbread! I loved the intricate houses you decorated with your girls, and the way you’d make all the pieces, then invite neighbors in and help them put theirs together. What a great example of love in action you were–a “walking Bible” for anyone who came in contact with you.
I’ll never forget your empty closet. Dean took me back to your room, opened the door, and invited me to have a look. There were two blouses, a pair of pants, a jacket and a pair of sneakers on your side of the his-and-hers. Astonishing. You told me once that giving your clothes to charity was one of the disciplines of a beautiful woman. I will never be able to live up to your example, but I admire you with all my heart for being able to live it.
The discipline you displayed was remarkable. You chose not to be treated for the cancer that ravaged your body. You chose to live that last year enjoying your husband and your children. You pleaded with me to respect your choice, and I promised to do so, but it was not an easy promise to keep. There were tears and sadness the day you died, but there was also joy and thankfulness. Thankfulness for that golden crown you received from the hand of the One you so humbly served. I know you are feasting on the finest dishes Heaven has to offer!
It is said that if your friends number the fingers of one hand, you are indeed blessed. I am indeed a blessed woman! You, my friend, were my good conscience, always leading me, softly, in a way that anyone would appreciate: with love, forgiveness, acceptance, and encouragement.
I went to the mailbox this afternoon, and was amazed to find a Christmas letter from your oldest daughter, along with a beautiful family photo. Her husband is the author of the letter, and his pride in the immaculate home she keeps and the wonderful meals she prepares practically jumps off the page. I think of you and your “Betty Crocker” ways, and I smile. The smiling faces of your beautiful grandchildren break my heart a little, for your sake, but I know that through them, and through Rebecca’s three, you live on. I’m not surprised when I read that this little family will be off to spread the Good News along the Amazon next year. With you setting the example, they pretty much have to do astonishing things!