I spent the whole day Tuesday in my pajamas. Mostly sitting on the couch, checking Facebook and messages over and over and over again, waiting for word that my friend had died.
I prayed. I cried. I remembered. And I cried and prayed some more.
It felt as if all of life had been suspended. Like we were all floating above time and waiting for the news I didn’t want to hear.
During the afternoon, I spent several hours reading back through years of correspondence between us.
Suzy and I met many years ago when Scott was in college at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and I was pregnant with our first child. I worked for an endodontist, and Suzy worked next door for another doctor. We became friends.
After Scott graduated and we moved away from Tuscaloosa, Suzy and I swapped Christmas cards and photos for many, many years. And then gradually, we lost contact with each other.
Six years ago, we found each other again on Facebook. Things had been hard for her during the years we had lost touch.
But by the time we reconnected, she was starting a fresh life and wrestling with the concepts of God for the first time ever.
We wrote so many letters back and forth as she asked questions about her journey as a new Christian, and I did my best to answer those questions, assuring her that I was still trying to figure out these weighty concepts myself.
She told me that she was absolutely starving for a deeper understanding and a more passionate walk with this Father she had only fairly recently come to know. She longed for peace and knowledge.
And she asked great questions.
Through the years, I watched her grow and it seemed to me that she did find the peace and the assurance she was looking for, even as she — like the rest of us — continued to ask the hard questions.
I was so inspired as I watched her live such a full life that revolved around helping other people and rescuing abandoned animals.
I have no idea how many dogs found homes because of her and her husband. But I know that there are many.
She shared with me how much she loved her husband, her children, her granddaughter, her nephew. She prayed so much for all of them with a passion that longed for them to also know this peace.
She prayed for me. Constantly. Anytime I needed prayer about anything, she was right there. More than once, she even offered to drive from Tuscaloosa, AL, to Cincinnati in order to find some way to help me out when things were tough. When Scott was diagnosed with cancer two weeks ago, her first response was that she was praying; her second was that she would be here in a heartbeat if she could help in any way.
She was like that. She would drop everything — always with that great smile of hers — if any person or animal needed her. She was selfless.
This past October, she and her husband did drive to B’ham when our whole family was there speaking on adoption and orphan care. She came to hear us speak and to finally meet our children in person. It was so great just to see her face again and to hug her.
But why, oh why, did I not think to get a picture of us together?! The same thing happened the last time I saw my brother alive; I forgot to take any pictures. And then it was too late.
Before Scott and I left for Tampa last week, Suzy sent me a message. Continuing to thirst for deeper understanding and a closer walk with God, she wanted to know what devotional book I was using this year. I didn’t get a chance to answer that message before we left. I told myself I would answer it while we were in Tampa.
Unfortunately, I had underestimated how packed the schedule would be in Tampa.
And then . . . just two days into that busy schedule in FL, I got word that my friend had collapsed at work when her heart stopped with no warning. She fought hard through the weekend, but Tuesday morning I awoke to messages from her husband and her daughter, telling me that she would probably be in heaven within a few hours.
And I never answered her last question.
Which devotional book am I using this year? I am still using some of the same ones I told you about before, my sweet friend. And this year I have also added, Day by Day With the English Puritans; Scott gave it to me for Christmas. Now, it’s too late to tell you that.
But . . . it doesn’t really matter now. Because you are sitting at the feet of your Father! You are now able to worship Him truly and completely — just the way He intended when He created man and before sin entered this world and spoiled our beautiful fellowship with Him. There are no more limits to your ability to freely love this Savior you longed to know better. And you know Him fully now. You won’t be needing any more devotional books.
Your journey here on earth, so full of questions and the search for an intimate walk with our Creator is ended. You have that complete peace that can only come once we cross over into our Savior’s waiting arms. I’m so happy for you.
But I miss you. My heart aches at the knowledge that you are no longer just a few keystrokes away. Even as I type this post in your memory, I recognize that there’s a back corner of my brain that keeps thinking of questions I want to ask you; and almost instantly, the shocked realization (again and again) that I won’t be able to do that.
The world will miss you. You changed so many lives while you were here, and it was an honor beyond description to have been among those lives touched by your beauty and your love and your selflessness.
“When my heart is brought to lie at the footstool of mercy, this seems to be the panting and breathing of my soul — to know experimentally and spiritually the blessed truths that my eyes see in the word of God, to have them opened up to my understanding, brought into my heart, grafted into my soul, applied to my conscience, and revealed with such supernatural and heavenly power that the truth as it is in Jesus may be in me a solemn and saving reality, that it may bring with it such a divine blessing as to fill me with grace, enlarge my heart into the enjoyment of the gospel, gird up my loins with spiritual strength, give and increase faith, communicate and encourage hope, shed abroad and draw forth love, and fill me with joy and peace in believing.”
~ Joseph Philpot (1802-1869)
You searched diligently for these things in your life here. And now you know them in ways that the rest of us are waiting for still. Bask in His love, my friend. We will meet again in a few short years, I’m sure. Until then, relish the truth that, while you would not have chosen to leave your loved ones so soon, you now have all that your soul was longing to grasp while you were still here among us.
I love you, Suzy. Thank you for being my friend.