Two weeks ago today I got a message of heartbreaking news that I’m still trying to come to terms with. It wasn’t bad news about the thyroid biopsy I’d just had. Thankfully I’d already heard that the large nodule in it was benign. Nor was it news about how the carcinoid metastasis in my liver is responding to the hormone shots I’m getting. That MRI is next week.
It was shocking news that I wasn’t preparing my heart for. A message that made me gasp when I read it and sit in disbelief. A message that said my best childhood friend had suddenly passed away.
We grew up next door to each other, our families moving into the new housing development when we were both two. I really don’t remember life before her. Our mothers became good friends, sharing visits over the clotheslines and kitchen tables, and we became friend-sisters.
Sisters that knew each other’s cousins and history and secrets. Sisters that laughed and cried and fought with each other.
As the saplings grew up in the potato fields that were now our neighborhood, so Jenny (not her real name) and I grew from toddlers to grade schoolers. We walked our dolls around the block together and shared lemonade stands and sleepovers. We called ourselves twins, though we looked nothing alike, and our moms indulged us with matching outfits from time to time.
We walked to and from grade school and junior high together every day. We were in the same Camp Fire Girl Group and we both took clarinet lessons for the school band. We visited each other’s churches and went to Bible Camp and Vacation Bible School together.
The trees grew tall and strong and so did we. We graduated from high school together and then drifted apart in college. She stood up for me in my wedding, but she remained single. I got busy with raising a family and she was busy with her career. We would get together for an occasional supper out. She talked me into attending our 25th High School Reunion.
And then we had a falling out that was very painful for both of us. I grieved the loss of our friendship. She grieved too. When I heard her mother passed away I went to the service, because she was a kind of second mom to me. I wasn’t sure if Jenny would welcome my presence there or not. But she was kind to me and her family seemed grateful I’d come.
I kept Jenny in my daily prayers over the years. But I didn’t know what to do about our friendship, or lack of. And then about a year ago I got a text from her. “I miss you.”
“I miss you, too,” I responded.
And those simple words started up our friendship again in a cautious way. We texted almost daily. She told me she had cancer and I told her I did too. We shared some photos and sent funny memes back and forth to each other.
She dropped off a meal on our doorstep. I sent her a DoorDash gift card. We talked about getting together but I had health issues and couldn’t go out to eat and there were Covid concerns too. So we were waiting for nice weather for a deck visit.
I hesitated because texting seemed safer. Physically and emotionally. I could look carefully at texts I was sending to make sure I wasn’t offending her. Part of me was afraid to really renew our friendship again. It was so painful when it had ended. I didn’t want to go through that again. I was just grateful we were communicating again.
But two weeks ago I sat bleary eyed, looking at the message from Jenny’s sister… realizing we were never going to have that chance to share a meal again on this earth. I’d waited too long.
Since my husband and I bought the house right behind the one I grew up in, I can see her childhood home from my back yard. I remember how I liked the way her sandbox was shaped liked a boat. I remember running through our yards barefoot on summer nights playing tag with all the neighbor kids.
I drive on the streets we walked on to school together. I still remember the spot where I slipped on ice and fell on my bottom and Jenny stood by and couldn’t stop laughing. So much of this town we grew up in together whispers memories we shared. It seems so unreal to think we won’t be making more.
I’m grateful Jenny reached out to me a year ago. And I’m even more grateful that she has faith in Jesus and so I know we will be reunited again someday and that she’s at peace in paradise with Him now.
But meanwhile I grieve. And I think. I think about how short life is and how we never know when our last words with someone will be.
I think of all the years of friendship and memories we missed out on because of pride and pain and fears.
I’m convicted as I look at a membership application and read our church covenant…“We further engage to watch over one another in Christian love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation; and to secure reconciliation without delay…”
And to secure reconciliation without delay.
God says don’t even offer Him sacrifices if someone has something against you. “Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” Matthew 25: 23-24
Why didn’t I do that?
Jesus, Jenny is with You now. Would you please give her a hug for me? Would you tell her how sorry I am for all the wasted years…for all the tears and heartbreak. Tell her I pray for her family every day. And our memories mingle in with my daily life and surely always will. Thank You, Lord for blessing me with a sister friend like Jenny. And thank You for the certain promise of eternity together.