Running late, I parked my car and rushed into the cafe. Waiting at a table, she smiled at me and opened her arms. We were meeting for lunch as we often did, looking forward to catching up on each other’s lives. I sat down my stuff and we ordered our food, breathed deep and waited. Looking across the table, she said, “I have to tell you something.” She had received a box of old letters and memorials, written when her husband had suddenly died at age 43. A friend had been hanging on to them and decided to send them to her. In the box was a five-page letter I had written her after his death. All this, almost 17 years ago.
“I figured out that you were one of the last people to talk to Spencer before he died. He had called the health center (where I worked as receptionist) and you took a message from him to give to the doctor.”
I let those word sink in.
There were so many memories that were vivid from that day, but that wasn’t one of them. As she shared, it all began to come back. I could feel something gurgle up inside of me, choking my throat and bringing tears to my eyes. The years pass, but how quickly we can return to those life changing moments.
After our lunch, I drove home thinking about our friendship. What a story we had let unfold between us in the past 17 years. How could we have ever imagined that our lives would be so forever connected? There was so much here, so much I don’t want to forget. And like that letter that captured the happenings around her husband’s death, I desired to put into words so many more things that have come out of that loss and that love.
This morning I sat down at my computer and found this entry in my journal. It takes me back to the time when I first met Nancy. I read through it, felt all those things again and thought, “Yes, this is a start.”
So here it is. A piece of our story.
The three of us sat awkwardly at the dining room table. The other intern and I looked to Nancy to give us some hope, some direction, and any possible way of getting through this time living together. This is what they would call an intervention – of sorts. We didn’t get along. And, if I am being brutally honest, we didn’t like each other. We had no idea how to live together and our time in this house wasn’t over. I didn’t meet her standard of cleanliness or her standard of what it meant to be a Christian. She was too rigid and judgmental for me to stomach being around. Oil and water, we were. We needed help if we were going to survive each other.
Nancy did help us get through that last month. She encouraged us, talked with us, mediated for us, and gave us ideas how to ride out that time together. And when it was over, sweet relief. Our time in community was up and we never had to live together again. Sound like a common roommate problem? I’m sure it was. We were college kids on a semester internship in Jackson, Mississippi. We were all thrown together in one house, so many different ways of looking at life. So many different opinions on what a clean kitchen looked like. And apparently, so many different ways of qualifying yourself as a Christian. I learned that fall that if I did my chores on a Sunday and if I snuck cigarettes I was totally out of the Kingdom. Just like that. She seemed shocked that a person like me would be there or be allowed to be there. I never quite understood what world she must have come out of. But, no matter, we made it.
Walking away from that internship, I was able to see the good experiences winning out over the tough ones like my roommate. But I was so uncertain about my life and it’s direction. My Christianity had been questioned, and while the person who did that just plain irritated me, I was shaken. Was I enough? Who was I, really? This time away from the college routine had been a welcome change from the academic rat race that depressed me, but it had also changed me- opened my eyes. And when I left, I was trying to figure out how I could get back. I wanted more.
And, I got it. I got back home, moved out of my college apartment and began my move to Jackson, Mississippi. I knew I needed to finish college, so I had applied at a college close to the Voice of Calvary community and transferred my credits. I was able to find a place to live with the Antioch Community, the same community I had lived in for my internship. I was back.
In continuation of my previous time here, I kept meeting with Nancy- minus the roommate issues. I wanted a mentor to help me through this time in my life and I had appreciated all she had given me during my tumultuous time in the previous months. Our relationship had become so important to me and we started meeting to pray together. And, despite all the junk she knew about me, she loved me just for who I was.
What had begun as a desperate mediation situation evolved into so much more. Looking back, I can see clearly how this relationship was being set up to last a lifetime. Our lives, together and individually, would go through so many faith crises and life crises, we never would have believed it at the time. What would start as me needing guidance and support would become a mutual desire for friendship Any unease with our age difference would fade into nothing.
Just a glimpse of our beginning.
Just a glimpse of the grace given to me through Nancy.
Just the story of a life long friendship.