Last year I had an unexpected reunion with one of my favorite childhood friends. Back in high school Heidi and I were an inseparable, fun-loving duo known as Beast n Bones. We loved spending time together and our friendship was marked with laughter – copious amounts of laughter.
It was one of those rare adolescent relationships free of angst and mean girl nonsense. We just genuinely loved each other like sisters.
Unfortunately we lost track of one another after graduation. Our friendship became a victim of the pre-cell phone age when you actually could lose track of a friend. Before I knew it, twenty years had flown by without seeing her.
When I received an urgent voicemail from a mutual friend that Lilly passed away, my first thought was: Who is Lilly? But as I saw messages flood Facebook and pieced two and two together, my heart sank. Lilly was Heidi’s daughter.
My memories with Heidi were marked with joy. And now I was mourning with her – even if she didn’t know it. My heart was heavy and I wept for this child. I might not have known Lilly, but I knew her mama. And I know the pain of losing a child.
I was overcome with a desire to be there for my friend. But I wasn’t sure if I should go to the funeral. I’d have to rearrange commitments and even then I’d have to drive down and back in one day. Plus I wondered … would it be awkward to drive five hours and show up at a little girl’s funeral who I didn’t even know?
I called Heidi’s cousin to ask what she thought. She replied, “Tams, she’s exactly the same as you remember her. She would want to see you.”
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
I waited in a line of people that snaked around the auditorium. When I saw Heidi she squealed, “BONES!!!” We hugged and giggled like a couple of schoolgirls. I came to mourn with her – but here we were rejoicing. That is just so … us.
Though I only saw Heidi for a moment, it was worth the drive. To touch, hug, and look into the face of a dear friend is always worth it.
I settled into my seat in an auditorium bursting with a community grieving the loss of such a bright child and rallying around her family. I sat with my older sister’s childhood friend and gripped her hand in shared history and shared grief. And though I haven’t lived in this community for over twenty years, I felt more at home than I have in a long time. Because I knew these were my people. This is where I came from.
I listened to tales of Heidi’s daughter, watched the slide show of this precious girl’s life and saw my friend in Lilly’s smile. I heard everyone talk about this fearless, joyful, fun-loving, go against-the-grain girl and my heart swelled. Because I once knew a girl like that. And when Heidi spoke with boldness about her daughter’s love of the Lord and heart for others, I felt like a crazy proud auntie she never knew.
I was overcome with this dual realization that time had moved on and frozen all at the same time. Heidi and I have both gone on and had full lives in the past twenty years. We have each seen our share of hardship and joy. We both fiercely love our babies. And the passing of time had changed none of my affection for my friend. None.
Between the drive, rearranging of commitments, and my fear of it being awkward, I almost didn’t go. But if I’d held back I would have missed all of this.
Being there drove home to me how critical it is to let the interruptions of life interrupt your life. Thinking of my friend would not have been a substitute for being with her in this moment. And I was so glad I came.
Though I never knew sweet Lilly, she touched my life. And I can’t wait to meet her someday in Heaven. Meanwhile I keep her mama in prayer like never before and treasure the memory of one more hug and giggle with my sweet friend – even amidst grief.
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