Today is my friend Amy's birthday. She is no longer here with us - she is celebrating today in heaven.
Last year, I received the stunning news that one of my long-lost college friends had died of a rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer this past summer. At age 48, only a year older than me, she was far too young.
Amy and I attended Bible college together in the mid-1980s. We both loved writing and met in a fiction class. Together, we discovered and then adored Flannery O'Connor and her quirky dark depiction of the south. We attempted to write short stories of our own- and shared a fear of standing and reading them aloud in front of class.
When one of our creepier classmates stood and read his story that bordered on obscenity, we both averted our eyes - our shoulders shaking as we struggled to contain our nervous laughter.
Amy had dark, short, cropped hair and warm brown eyes. She had a pale complexion and a ready smile. She laughed easily - one of those people you meet and instantly feel you've known forever.
She was no only a year ahead of me in school, but she was also a bit ahead of me in the world of love. Amy had a very cool and interesting boyfriend named Eric. He was tall and lanky with a patch of white hair in the midst of the brown. They were inseparable. They would write their names together amyanderic, although it wasn't as corny or insufferable as that might sound. They just matched.
Amy tried to teach me how to cross-stitch. She was good at homey stuff like that - calligraphy, decorating, cooking. I wanted to learn to cross-stitch too, but I just didn't have the patience. Most of my projects ended up unfinished at the bottom of a drawer.
So -- since he was hanging out with Amy - Eric decided to cross-stitch as well. Pretty soon, some of his friends tried it too. And, before you knew it, his entire dorm floor of guys were stitching away like a bunch of crazy quilting church ladies.
When Eric decided to propose, he cross-stitched the question and put it in a frame for Amy. I know it became one of her favorite treasures.
In the years after college, Amy and I lost touch. She went on to work for a Christian magazine - I headed to grad school. Then we began lives as wives and moms - and I let the onslaught of those years create a distance. There was nothing wrong between us - we just didn't see each other. But, I always figured that when we both had time, we would get together again and pick up where we left off. It would be that easy.
How would I know that tragedy would take her from me - from all of us - far too soon?
Last year, her husband Eric and I got together to catch up. We shared tears - and he showed me photos of their kids. They have four - two boys and two girls. They are perfect - just as unique and creative and individual as their parents. They love music and reading and the arts. Her daughters have her smile.
C.S. Lewis once said, "Why love if losing hurts so much?" How right he is. Yet, even Lewis finally concluded that both loving and losing are an integral part of this life.
I will miss you, Amy. They say heaven's gain is our loss. May it be a quick and temporary loss, my dear friend. We count the days until we can see you again. Thank you for adding sunlight, sweetness, creativity and love to our lives.