Last Friday a friend of 30 years passed away.
She wasn't in my inner circle of friends - someone I hung out with regularly, but we had our own special history. She was the neighbor on the other side of the pond for 26 years and then 4 years ago they retired and moved to another state, but returned periodically to check on their house.
When we moved in they welcomed us. They were a lovely family and always kind to us.
We have been blessed over the years to have wonderful neighbors that would do anything for you if they could. However, we weren't here that long before other neighbors told us of the long feud going on between this woman's family and a couple of other families. Sad, really - because they are all nice people. But things happen. We never got involved in any of that and always stayed neutral.
I eventually learned from someone that she had a troubled childhood that caused her to live like a hermit and pretty much kept her family that way as well. It was odd. They were extremely private. No one was ever invited in and the kids were rarely allowed out.
She was a school teacher who loved her job and had won state recognition "Teacher of the Year" awards. Lovely to interact with. Every Christmas we could count on getting their traditional Christmas card with the kids posed outside by the pine trees (which are huge now) dressed in winter clothes holding presents. I still have them all - somewhere.
We went to the same church and we shared a lot of the same values. If we spoke it was on the phone, at my house or as she was driving past me on her way home or to come down and get the mail.
We have a little dirt road right of way that runs through the end of our property and goes up and around the pond to the few land locked houses in the back. Her husband would fill the potholes and plow the whole little road with his red dump truck every time it snowed and then eventually when that gave out he replaced it with the blue dump truck. We've had many conversations with him too on his way in or out, but never at their house unless it was through the door. They had a lovely home - they were just private. It was OK - sometimes, you just need to meet your friends where they are at and if you care about them you accept them as they are.
She asked my friend, (who was also my mentor, who was our pastor's wife and she was on the board of our local hospice) and another pastor and me to come with her to pray with sick relatives. While she never once confided any family concerns that she may have had - she trusted me. She would send presents down to our sons and she would give us discontinued grade school books for them to play with.
We had a huge neighborhood picnic that no-one invited them to. I would have, but I assumed they wouldn't come. She was hurt and sent me a letter, expressing it and I felt terrible and promptly called to apologize. I wish I had extended the invitation.
Also in that letter, she said really nice things about me. I had no idea she thought the things she said. I still have that somewhere too.
In the early 90's, my husband faced an unbelievable legal case - one in which he was completely innocent and *that* is when we discovered the meaning of guilty until proven innocent. It went on for 20 long months. (That is an interesting and awesome story that I may post on - but I want to get his permission first and even then I will guard identifying info) One morning, as I was walking out to my car, I noticed this package on my windshield. I opened it right then and there and it was a set of Pastor Charles Stanley cassette tapes. They were about why and what happens when a Christian goes through tough times. They were truly a blessing and I played them over and over * One thing I remember from them is that anything, even the bad things that happen don't happen without first being sifted through the hands of God and if he allows it through then there is a purpose that will work out for good. This isn't verbatim but is the gist of what he said. She also wrote a letter of support when my husband needed it for a character reference. Actually she typed everything because she had severe arthritis in her hands.
Even though we were friends at a distance - we were friends who connected in a unique sort of way. I missed them when they moved away. The sliding door in our family room faces their house directly. While they always had their curtains closed, I joked that they could see me in my pajamas and began to think "Oh well - we're family now." knowing they could see in if they chose to.
Over these last few years, I would feel sad and a sense of loss that the house across the pond was empty and always dark. Even though we didn't see each other much, I just always knew they were there. This last week it looks especially cold, dark and empty.
She liked to write and after she retired, she began a writing correspondence course. She wrote beautiful letters. I thoroughly enjoyed them. This past year she sent me 3 or 4 letters and I didn't respond to any of them. I saved them. I planned to write her. Last April I had spoken with her husband when he was driving by. I told him a little of the medical stuff I was dealing with but we mostly discussed how much they loved upper NY state.
I like to write letters. I did write some letters this past summer and fall. I have several letters to various people that I started last summer ( still in my word program) to send out but I haven't finished. God knows that I have been writing in this blog and others since November. I was going to tell her about my blog. I think she would have liked it and who knows maybe would have liked doing it herself.
She would have loved to hear our family news and she would've cared about my concerns as well. It was the first year that we didn't get a Christmas card from them and I should have known something was wrong. Darn - I hate, really hate regrets!
We went to the viewing Tuesday night. We paid our respects to the family. It was nice to see their now adult kids after so many years.
So, farewell my friend. I know you are in a better place, freed from your earthly cocoon of chains and cares that bound you. No doubt you are experiencing your rebirth into perfect love, joy and peace in your eternal home with our resurrected Lord. No doubt you will be using your teaching skills since our life there is a continuation of who we are here, only more perfected and no doubt you are experiencing the thrill of greeting loved ones from bygone days. :)
I guess this is my final letter of sorts. Thank you for being my friend. :)
The butterfly is symbolic of the resurrection, rebirth and of new beginnings.