Last week I found out that a dear friend from my high school days had died after a long stretch of living with cancer.
And it broke my heart.
For a week now I have been trying to pinpoint my feelings and why her loss stunned me so deeply.
After all, I haven't seen her since high school.
We kept in touch for a while in college, but then she got married and started having babies and we lost each other.
Several years later we somehow got in touch with each other and started sending the yearly Christmas cards with a few sentences about our families. Then lost touch again.
Through Facebook several years ago, we reconnected and I found her to be the same funny, amazing woman I remembered her to be. After several exchanges, she let me know that she had the tumor and that it was terminal.
I was devastated for her!
And I thought, selfishly, devastated for me.
I have been thinking about that a lot since her passing, and I realize that it is not selfishness that has torn my heart apart.
When we met in high school, I was somewhat of a mess. I was a relatively new believer in Christ, and I will openly admit, I was not very schooled in what was right and wrong. I had faith and enthusiasm, but was not great on delivery. I did many foolish things. Things that she could see, things that effected her at times. And yet, in spite of myself, she loved me and accepted me anyway.
She welcomed me with open arms. She opened her world to me. She taught me, forgave me, laughed and cried with me. When I think back to our times together, my sides ache from the laughter! She was talented. She was probably the closest thing to a female Dick Van Dyke that has ever been! She could sing, and dance, and had energy galore. She was so creative. She came up with some of the funniest ideas for our camp skits. Most importantly, she was a good and Christ-like young woman.
So it may be easy to see why it breaks my heart that she is gone. It isn't selfishness. It is knowing that someone who has been such a great influence on your life and has then gone on to do the same things in the lives of countless others is now gone.
I didn't find out that she passed until an hour before her funeral which was 8 hours away. And I cried.
I wished so much that I could have hugged her family, met her kids, told them how much she meant to me personally.
They probably wouldn't need me to, because she was that person for them in the way they needed her. They have their own wonderful stories of laughter and tears and goodness.
I am sad because she is gone so young and I won't see her again in this life.
I am sad for those who never got to meet her and be friends with such a wonderful person.
I am sad for those of us who had the chance to know and love her for a while and be blessed by her goodness, humor, talent, intelligence and insight, and will miss her influence.
And at the same time I am so grateful that God blessed me to have her in my life, even for a short time. I have memories that will make me laugh and cry forever. I will always think back to girl's camp and the pots and pans tied to various parts of her as she became our one woman band. I have a better sense of right and wrong because of her. I have so many memories of good wholesome times because that is what she was.
Anita, I love you. I know that those who knew you will treasure their memories with you. Thank you for living your beliefs and helping me to learn how. Thank you for being the amazing woman you were created to be!