My good friend Lynn passed away Thursday morning. I am not her husband or one of her three children. I am not the best friend she had since first grade. I am not her mom or her dad who—on the evening of the day she died—shared stories with me about his precious girl. Their grief runs far deeper than mine, their loss radically greater, their stories much more important, but even so, I am—was—am her friend.
Lynn was the friend who was wading through adoption paperwork the same time I was. She was one of the few who knew all the Chinese adoption lingo like DTC and DTR and INS, she knew about fingerprinting and waiting and waiting and waiting until you get a referral photograph of a little face that looks nothing like yours, but a little face you fall in love with and carry around everywhere, showing the photograph to everyone saying, “This is my daughter. Is she not the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?” We prayed for our girls, together, before we met them. We prayed, together as families, before each of us left for China. We brought our baby girl home in December of 2005; they brought their baby girl home only a few months later in March.
She was the friend I called when, years later, I seriously doubted my parenting abilities. We met at a park while our girls played and instead of commiserating with me like I kind of expected, Lynn looked at me and said, somewhat sternly, “Rachel, God knew Maylie was to be your daughter even before she was conceived just like he knew Alaina was to be mine.” In other words, stop fretting. The plan is so much bigger than you and your questions. If you knew Lynn, you know she told it to you straight.
She was the friend I began to subconsciously pull away from when the cancer returned. I didn’t realize I was pulling away but I was, because I didn’t know what to do for her. She was the friend who softly, but directly, called me out on it, in essence asking, where have you been? I need you. She was brave enough to speak up and I’m so glad because I needed her as well.
We reconnected. Our daughters splashed in her pool together for the better part of last summer. Once, while praying for her, God whispered to me to make her chicken salad (I know that sounds hokey but I don’t know how else to say it) The next day she texted me thank you, said she actually loved eating it, and it didn’t aggravate her mouth sores. She said she felt so loved that God cared about the details and would give her something, through me, that tasted good. I literally burst into happy tears.
I was a far cry from being a perfect friend to her. I know I failed her in some ways, but I also know that I got some things right.
The last day I spent with her before she went into the hospital for the final time, I drove her to Wal-Mart (Wally World, as she liked to call it). It was a bright, cold day and I commented on the harsh wind. She pointed out a flaming Maple and said it was beautiful. On the way home she showed me a house that sells pumpkins for a steal. Then, at her house, we cleaned her kitchen and as I wiped down the tops of her doorframes and the top of her refrigerator I laughed and said maybe I should do this in my kitchen once every five years. Then we talked about our little girls, now seven, for a long time. We talked about the strange marriage of joy and grief and she said how she wanted her funeral to be a celebration of her life, her life on earth and her new life in heaven. We sat and cried and prayed and the radio softly sang in the background. It was sacred and beautiful.
The hours before she died, as other women and I slipped in and out of her hospital room to be with her in the wee hours of morning, to pray her Home, were sacred too. Death is ugly. Cancer is wretched and awful. But Lynn was beautiful because she was going Home and she knew it and she was ready.
Her family knows the depths of her pain better than anyone. Her husband knows better than anyone how she hated the cancer but accepted with grace that this was the ministry God had called her to. A holy, hard calling she took very seriously. She sought out people in oncology to pray for them. She prayed for and encouraged her nurses. She boldly let those around her know that Jesus is the true God and loves us and died and rose to bring us back to God. To conquer death. To pay our way. Do you understand what this means? I can almost hear her ask.
Her body was pushed to its limit, her suffering long and severe. But imagine her homecoming! Imagine her Father holding out his arms as if he couldn’t get his arms around her fast enough exclaiming, “Well done, Lynn my good and faithful servant!” She is free, free, free of the cancer! She is home. Her faith, her steadfast, demonstrative faith—not in herself, not in her goodness—but in her Lord Jesus, is now sight.
You are a treasure, Lynn, and we can’t wait to see you again. We will read Romans 8 and think of you.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8: 38-39