My best friend died of cancer last Friday, three years ago, and each day since when I wake up, I miss her.
“I think you’d like Christine. She’s a teacher like you,” they said pointing her out across the room. Seeing her blond highlighted hair, I thought, “She’s totally a girly-girl. We have little in common.” I was so wrong about that because, we did in fact become friends and it was she that converted me to “the world of girly-girlism.”
At the age of 27, she taught me how to put on eye makeup and reminded me that I can’t wear leggings with every dress, because sometimes it just looks too frumpy. Who would have known this crucial fashion fact except… Christine?
To this day, she is the only person I’ve ever known who can shop for 8 straight hours and keep going. So, this is why, I told her after she passed away last Friday, “If I ever get married, who the heck is going to pick out my wedding dress if it isn’t you?”
I sobbed after her first chemo treatment and ironically it was she that comforted me. I thought I saw a halo on her head, the kind angels wear, and now I realize I probably did.
“Are you okay?” she asked me.
In between sobs, I said, “Don’t you ever get mad at God? I mean, of all people, why did you get cancer? You’re like the most nicest loving person in the world?”
She smiled. “Why get mad at the One person who can heal me?”
As her body had started to fall apart, I asked, “Do you still believe that God’s going to heal you?”
Without hesitating, she said, “Of course, I just need my body to cooperate.”
Forget mustard seeds. Christine had faith that could move mountains.
God did indeed heal her of cancer in the end.
I just wish selfishly along with all of you, that He did so on this side of eternity.
She once told me, “Esther, you don’t always have to be the strong one. When will you finally let your guard down and let someone love and take care of you?”
Those words have always haunted me, mostly because they’re true. She understood my brokenness better than I did at moments, but also because, her words to me so much reflect her own life in the past few weeks.
Feeling helpless and useless, she cried when the nurse aides at the hospital came to help move her. That’s when I said to her, “Oh, honey. Your body is tired and weary. You loved us all so well. You just let us love you now. You just let us be the arms of Jesus.”
As Christine got sicker, I found myself taking care of her in ways I’ve never never done before. Each time, I helped move her, feed her, undress and change her, I realized more profoundly, “This is what love looks like.”
On the Friday she passed away, the hospice nurse began to clean and prepare her body, I asked to help. I wonder if this is how the women who prepared Jesus’ body for burial felt — a profound amount of grief over his death, yet this desire to love him well through this final act.
There’s a point in the process where she needs to lift Christine’s body and I say, “It’s okay. I’ll do it.” I’ve done it so many times, but this time it is different, because she is no longer breathing.
So, I wrap my arms around her tiny lifeless body and lift her up as the nurse elevates her head just a little. It’s a strange experience. Her body is still warm, like she’s still here, but she’s gone.
During her last week, each time I left the house to run an errand, her eyes would well up with tears, she’d whisper softly, “I love you,” as if it might be the last time she told me. In that moment, I reminded that my best friend whom I love very much is gone and I’m hugging her for the very last time.
“I love you too,” I whisper to her, hoping that in spite of the massive party the angels are throwing up in heaven, she can still hear me say goodbye.
Thank you for loving me and letting me love you to the door of eternity.