I have a friend here in Clemmons named Debbie.
Truth be told, though I met her over a year ago, I wouldn’t call us “close” friends. During the school year we see each other every Tuesday morning at Bible study. During the summer we seem to have our gym schedules aligned, so I might see her and chat three days a week from a treadmill.
For sure I’ve never told her this, at least not in a serious heart to heart moment, but Debbie represents several things for me. First, she is a stay at home mom of four boys whose ages range from four to eight years old. (The question of closeness in our friendship most likely resides in this demographic fact alone.) Many of you know that from the time I was about fourteen years old, I thought I only wanted to give birth to boys, and I thought four was the perfect number. There have been many mornings at church or at the gym where I am sure my body language says everything about the kind of morning I’ve had. More often than not, one look at Debbie tells me hers was worse. She’s usually laughing about things by the time I see her, but I am always humbled into silence.
Not only does the woman have four kids, but the last two were twins. My first thought was, “Four kids and only three pregnancies, you are so lucky!” To this she told me the story of her bed-ridden pregnancy with twins, who were sharing amniotic fluid back and forth, and how her mother-in-law lived with them for several months to do, basically, everything. And there’s that humility button, pushed again.
The woman is, I believe, about five years older than me, and I’ve seen her in a two piece swim suit. She gives me hope that bodies after four babies don’t have to be purchased.
Last week Debbie’s husband died in a sudden and terribly tragic accident.
There has been an outpouring of love, care, and support from her church and our community, in the form of meals and financial contributions, childcare and prayer. Amazed and overwhelmed, I hesitate to insert myself into a grief circle in which I do not feel I rightfully belong. It is one of those times where I am once again silenced and humbled. I can’t begin to understand how she feels, and I do not pretend to empathize. But this moment has certainly forced me to stop this week and consider my life with a little less complaining (or thought of complaining). It has forced me to pause and give thanks for the gift of life. It has forced me into a few conversations with John that never seemed terribly immediate.
As a sheltered and spoiled teenager I was shocked when, at my Christian high school, my English teacher’s marriage ended in divorce. I remember her telling the girls in our class, more than once, to make sure we have a plan in life in case we ever have to do things on our own. This translated immediately, of course, to get an education, think about a career, and become a strong individual. Grab hold of something to believe in and live for, and own it, personally. Don’t let someone else think for you. Don’t rely on someone else to take care of you.
I’m not sure it would matter if I have heeded such an admonition or not. The real life fact of the matter is, now that I’m married, exactly half of my thinking is done by or through John. Half of my living is through him. It is the closest thing I can imagine to being a transformer. We came together in life, and some days he is the legs and I am the head. Some days he is the eyes and I am the heart. Even if I tried to disjoint myself from him and be independent, I couldn’t do it. We aren’t partners who are simply stronger together. We are siamese twins invisibly connected, and one of us is necessary for the other to live.
I can’t imagine losing my right leg. I can’t imagine losing half of my brain or my eye sight.
But another reality is that people do. And survive.
Today I will grieve for a friend and a family. I will celebrate restoration of fullness for someone else, and be thankful for mine. I will accept my role in this family honorably, and remember to be joyful.