I have been thinking of my friend Linda quite a bit recently. To say only that I taught at the same high school with Linda would do a disservice to our relationship. I did teach with her, but I also prayed with her, cried with her, laughed with her, traveled with her, admired her, and grieved her…I grieve her still.
Linda died in November, 2008. She had the same kidney cancer my husband had been diagnosed with, but they found hers after it had spread into her body and beyond remedy.
I don’t claim that Linda and I were the best of friends. She was closer to my mother’s age than mine, but it never really mattered. She was such a young spirit, full of spunk and sass. She and I had the honor and blessing to attend our school’s Kairos retreat with many different groups of seniors over several years. In sharing Kairos ~ or “God’s time” ~ with each other, we had time to share beyond our Math or Religion curriculum, beyond our school assemblies or student dramas; we shared matters of substance.
We shared about our hopes for the future, our relationships with our husbands, our questions regarding spirituality, and of course, the minutia of life: board games, beer, poker, jokes, and lots and lots of good laughs. I loved her. I loved the way she talked about her husband Jim and her kids. I loved her honesty and frankness. I loved her determination to live life in that moment and not to wait until it was more convenient.
For some reason tonight, I was looking up some old Catholic cd’s one of my other friends introduced me to a long time ago. As I found “Simple Gifts” and ”Instruments of Peace” on Spotify, I was immediately transported in my mind back to a road trip I took with three lovely ladies to visit another one of our good friends. What a fun trip! Linda was there, Sue (owner of these cd’s), and my good friend Gina. We were traveling to visit our friend Ellen, another teacher with whom we had bonded over Kairos who was now teaching in New Jersey.
There are several moments on that journey that stand out to me as I reflect upon it tonight. I remember talking about not expecting our husbands to fulfill us, but looking to God for that instead. What did I know?! I had been married for such a short time and I was spouting off about something I knew very little about, really. But these women gave me such grace. I didn’t know at that moment how important that lesson would one day be for me as well. I also remember talking about being a vessel for God. This phrase has resurfaced many times in sharing my experience of losing Kate. The excursion was also a major crossroads as I would come home from that trip, take a pregnancy test, and turn a very important corner in my life’s journey.
Linda’s husband gifted me a pair of her earrings. They are beautiful gold butterflies. My first instinct was to tuck them in a special box only to be pulled out for sacred, special occasions. But then I had to check myself. If I learned one thing from Linda, it was that every moment of our lives is sacred. Chatting with neighbors, playing games, dancing at weddings, changing diapers ~ there is something sacred about every moment we experience as long as we acknowledge it as such. Life is not something to tuck away in a box, even a beautiful one, hoping for the perfect moment to enjoy it.
Life is about grabbing on with both hands, and taking it for the wild ride it is. It’s about finding the sacred in washing the dishes, kissing a boo-boo, reprimanding (while trying not to laugh at) the 7 yr. old for the wedgie he just gave his 5 yr. old brother. It’s about a purple iris broken in the rainstorm now adorning the kitchen counter in a Mason jar. It’s about weeding those damn dandelions and thistles even though you just weeded them yesterday, or maybe just ignoring them after all. It’s about wearing gold butterfly earrings to watch a soccer game or for a day at the park.
Even life’s ordinary moments are sacred; perhaps, especially those.
And so I offer my starfish, Linda. I hope this humble blog serves as a vessel for God’s love. I hope in some small way to honor your life by sharing a bit of mine. If it helps even one, it will be worth it. In the midst of writing this and remembering you, I shared a beer with my neighbor, admired the beautiful lush overgrown lawn after an afternoon rain, baked brownies and ate them with my children, cleaned up after my family, refereed several arguments, scratched my son’s back, carried my baby to his bed, laughed with a friend about a fake mustache… familiar, humdrum yet hallowed moments.
I miss you, friend.