I planned to write this post earlier in the week–before everything I had to say would become past tense. There aren’t words to describe my sadness or express the pain I feel from this loss. It hurts more than words. I never imagined it. I still don’t believe it.
I wanted to tell you about someone who’s played such a significant role in my life for the past 28 years. I wanted her to know how much I loved her and exactly how much impact she has had on me. And I was hoping, while in the hospital, she would read it and know. But there just wasn’t enough time. Time ran out, and all I got to do was sit by her bed, hold her hand, and tell her I loved her and would see her later. It’s just not fair. I hope she knows.
I met Linda and her daughters (we are close in age) in the early 90’s when I was in 7th grade. She was my Sunday School teacher. She welcomed all the kids to her house and strangely, seemed to enjoy it. She had a swimming pool and would often have everyone over. She also had baptisms at her house. Talk about someone who let God use all of her and everything she had for His glory–but we will get to that later.
Linda was a fun-loving, gentle-spirited, peaceful, sweet soul. She greeted everyone as if they were the most important people in the world. And when you spoke to her, you had her full attention, and she genuinely cared. She always offered advice, wisdom, and prayers. And she’d even throw the word of God in there. She always looked on the bright side and tried to get you to see the direction of the light, and if you couldn’t, she would pray over you. And her prayers were really something. She didn’t use fancy words or have some deep, loud voice (obviously), but her voice was as peaceful and gentle as they get. And she would pray with such faith and confidence in what she asked God that you couldn’t help but feel better. She prayed as though she took on the burden with you and helped you carry it. You always knew you weren’t alone in your battles. She would always help you “take up your cross.”
Her house was a place of peace, a refuge, a place I’d often run to when my world was too much for me. (It was too much a lot of the time.) And she was always welcoming. There were times I was there more than her girls. lol. She’d greet you with a smile, tell you to have a seat on the dark green couch, and offer you a drink. And if you were there long enough, she’d ask you to stay for dinner.
Linda never judged me like a lot of other people at church (because I was quiet) and she never involved herself in gossip, church politics, or that holier-than-thou nonsense you’ll get with most people who attend church regularly. She was as real and genuine as they come. She was one of the only people who kept me believing that good people do exist. She had no agenda. And she was always respectful of my wishes not to be touched or hugged or anything. And that was a big deal to me when I was younger. It still is, but I’m a lot better about it now.
Sometimes when she had everyone over to swim, I would stay just to talk to her. I knew that whenever I was around her, we were most certainly in the presence of God. And I needed that. She would ask me lots of questions, encourage me, and always say a prayer. Now that I think about it, these last 28 years with me were a part-time job for her. lol. But that’s the way she was with everyone. If you needed her, you could count on her. If you were in any sort of need, and she could help, she most certainly would. I could write pages and pages of the many ways she’s been there for me and all the things she’s done. I am going to save a lot of that for later.
When I graduated high school, she asked me if she could have a party for me. That was such a nice and generous offer, but I declined. I felt weird about that. I didn’t understand why she wanted to do that. But she was just being herself. Instead, she and the girls took me to lunch at Fa-Rays one Sunday after church. I wasn’t comfortable with that, either, but you gotta let people be themselves–even if that means letting them buy you lunch. It was an extremely hot day, so I just ordered a salad. I didn’t even care if we ate. I just enjoyed spending my time with them.
Later that Summer, she asked me what I’d planned to do from there. I remember the night like it was yesterday. Morgan and all her friends had been swimming, and I was the last one left in the pool. They had all gone out front for some reason. The sun was almost completely down, and it was a peaceful evening. And I wasn’t at all expecting a serious conversation–especially one I had no answers for. I had no plan or a clue, and she was there in true Linda fashion, showing care and concern and offering encouragement. I went onto college a few times, and the rest is history.
Linda invited me to all the holiday/family gatherings with her entire extended family, and before I knew it, I was considered and treated like part of them. I remember a Thanksgiving (1999) at her mother’s house where I was warned that everyone naps. They sure did–on the dog bed in the middle of the living room! lol.
There were Thanksgivings, Christmases, Easters, weddings, baby showers, and family dinners. There were times I went over just to watch them make a mess of the living room while decorating the tree or wrapping presents. I just loved to be there and with them. I didn’t care about the details.
Every semester before classes start, we would talk about it, and she would assure me I would get through it. And she was always right. And every Sunday for years, we would go to lunch after church, often times just she and I cause the girls were at work. We ate so much Parasson’s and Pizza Hut that I’d swear we became Italian. lol. And thanks to the employees at Pizza Hut, we never spent a dime. We gave it all in tips.
There were always calls and visits and lunches or dinners. There were always Christmas cards and presents. (I saved every one of them, too.) There were always happy birthday wishes (our bdays are one day apart.)There were always visits just to catch up. And I loved every minute of it.
Linda encouraged me in my writing. She took genuine interest in my education and always wanted to hear all about it. And when I took writing classes, she insisted on reading my work and discussing it. I was always excited for her to read things and anxiously awaited her thoughts.
When I graduated college, she and the ladies from our “old lady” Sunday School class threw me a party at a nearby restaurant. They learned of my love for sewing (and that my grandma got me a sewing machine) and bought me everything you could ever want or need. And there was a cake! I can’t remember what the cake was called, but it was from Reeves and was delicious as always.
When I went to grad school, we continued lunches and dinners but not every week like before. And true to herself, Linda took genuine interest in me, my studies, and everything else going on in my life.
I could go on forever with the memories, but that won’t make any of you possibly understand how wonderful she was, how much pain I feel for losing her, or how much darker this world is without her. If you knew her, you were one of the lucky ones.
Linda, I wish you had gotten to see this before you went home. I hope you knew how much I loved you and how much you meant to me and how much I appreciated every single thing you ever did for me. I will never forget any of it. We had some really good times! (I will be writing stories about much of it.) And laughter. So much laughter. Thank you for your unconditional love and unending support and encouragement in all things. Thank you for taking me to the doctor at 5am when I tore my knee and again when I broke my foot. Thank you for coming to a comedy show once (and not shaming me for that craziness. lol.) Thank you for always welcoming me, caring, and offering wisdom and encouragement. Thank you for the many prayers. Thank you for the smiles. Thank you for being a constant source of peace and light in my life. Thank you for your strong faith and your example. It was easy to believe in a loving God because of you.
I know you weren’t confident in much but I know you could say one thing with full confidence when you arrived: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) Thank you for 28 years of memories, sweet lady. And thank you for my second family.
And if you could, ask God to wrap his arms around us tightly. This pain is almost unbearable.
I’m sorry we didn’t get any more time. I just heard from you a few days ago. I never imagined that would be the last. I’m glad I got to stop by a month ago and visit. I enjoyed the excitement you had when you told me you finally finished reading my favorite book, To Kill A Mockingbird.
I’m glad you’re no longer suffering and are finally where you’ve worked towards since I’ve known you. I have no doubt you have some of the greatest rewards in Heaven.
I will do my best to live a life that even resembles a fraction of yours. I will try to smile more, look in the direction of the light, and always remember where it comes from. And I’ll do my best to be there for the family the way you’ve been there for me. I will try to be nicer to strangers and people, in general.
And if you could, tell my grandma I said hello and I miss her. You two will get along just fine. Your birthdays are a day apart, too.
You were the absolute best, and my world will never be the same. Until we meet again, sweet lady!
Love always, Erica.