A few months ago, when Kim asked me to write about my friendship with my best friend, I was really excited. I thought about all the things I could write and all the stories I could share-stories that were special to us that no one else had experienced. But as the “due date” approached, I started dreading it. I started looking at it like work. I saw it as something I was going to have to put a lot of time and effort into. I knew the stories and I could retell them easily but they had no Biblical substance. I couldn’t relate our experiences to specific scriptures. I had no Bible references to support my story. I kept trying to come up with a reason for our friendship, something deep and meaningful, something sappy. I wanted it to be a story that would stick with you and you would think “Wow that was so deep, so uplifting, or so incredible.”
I was making it harder than it needed to be.
As I lay in bed one night thinking about it, I realized that some things are just a gift and there’s really no reason for it.
Plain and simple, it’s just a gift.
Mary and I met in 4th Grade. My mom was moving me to a new school and was looking for a way to introduce me to some girls that attended that school. So she signed me up for a gymnastics class, and that’s where I met Mary. We became fast friends, which fortunately lasted longer than our gymnastics career. Mary and I played softball together, we were in Girl Scouts together, went to our proms together, and remained close friends throughout our middle and high school years. We had a lot in common but mostly we were just really good girls. We had good morals, followed the rules, attended church, and had a love for Jesus above all else.
After high school, life took us on separate paths. Mary got married in college and moved away to Wyoming. The distance strained our closeness for a brief period until Mary eventually moved home a few years later.. a few months before I got married.
Shortly after Mary came home, our life as mommies began…. Mary had her first son Jak in 2001 and a year later I had my oldest daughter Meagan. We were going to church together and our friendship started to pick up where it had left off.
I remember Mary calling in early 2003 to tell me that she was pregnant again and she would be having a little girl. Life could not have been more perfect for either of us.
We were seeing God work to build the families we had always prayed for. That September, Mary gave birth to a little girl she named Maura. I still remember Mary telling me how much hair Maura had and how she could pass “up” her bows to Meagan, who was still bald at two years of age. I was working and had planned to go see her at the hospital the following day, but before I got there they had already been released. So I made plans to see Maura at home the following day.
However, that next day never came.
Late that night, I was awakened by a phone call from our pastor’s wife. She was calling to tell us that during the night, Maura had had trouble breathing and that they took her by ambulance to the hospital. The next thing she told me was that Maura did not make it. I had never seen her or held her and now she was gone.
It’s difficult for me to write about that time in our friendship. The words that I write to describe that time don’t have the depth that I want them to but then I realize there are no words with meaning enough to describe it. It was horrible. It was heart breaking and it was trying. Mary and I talked for hours. She was so sad and so broken.
What do you say to that?
Your best friend is dying inside and all you can do is listen. But honestly, I’m not sure if “dying inside” is even the way to describe my thoughts towards Mary’s emotions. She handled everything with such faith, such grace, and with such healing. I have never been more proud of a person in my life as I was watching Mary heal through the death of her baby girl.
The years that followed Maura’s death brought each of us a baby boy-Cameron for me in 2004 and Caleb for Mary in 2005. It was exciting to see our families growing and to see Mary’s healing. Two years later, I was blessed with a third child, another little girl named Micah. During that time, I watched as Mary and her husband prayed for another baby and eventually tried adoption but God had other plans and I watched as Mary again handled another heartbreak.
I felt guilty that God was fulfilling my dreams and not Mary’s-that she was being handed so many unanswered prayers.
In the spring of 2009, God decided that my family was not complete as I found out I was pregnant with our 4th child. A few months later at the 18 week ultrasound, I was told that my little girl would be born with Spina Bifida. It’s funny as I think back on that day-I remember Mary telling me that she could not get in touch with me, so she knew something was wrong. She called our pastor and he told her that yes there was a problem but he would not tell her what until I said it was okay. I laugh because of all the people who should have known, she was definitely in the top 2.
As I struggled through the various emotions, questions and lies I was being told, Mary knew what to ask, when to ask it and when to listen. She would pray when I couldn’t.
She was my Jesus on earth.
Over the next several months, I traveled to Philadelphia for doctors appointments and tests. I was given the worst case scenarios for our little girl and was advised that abortion was something to be considered. My fear became intense and my heart was broken.
It’s not easy to listen to other people tell you your baby is not worthy of life.
Malia was born in October and had two major surgeries the day after she was born and would stay in the NICU for two weeks. Mary made arrangements for her boys to be taken care of and flew to Philadelphia to stay with me, as my husband had to return home for work. During her stay, we laughed, we cried and we trusted God, but to be honest there were times when I questioned God.
I am happy to say that Malia is now four years old and is doing well. It’s definitely not easy and there are days when her struggles are so hard to watch but God is good and He is faithful and He is taking care of her. In the years since Malia’s birth, I have been reminded numerous times that Jesus does answer the prayers of His people.
In October of 2013, I was camping with my family. It was 9:00 a.m. on Sunday morning when I got a call from Mary. It was strange that she would be calling on a Sunday morning when typically she’d be getting ready for church. All I remember her saying was “there was a baby born and I will be bringing her home tonight. Please pray everything goes okay.” And then I started crying. I had to call her back and get the details. I was seeing God fulfilling a prayer that had been prayed for almost eight years. That night, Mary and her family received their answered prayer, her name is Grace.
I have been blessed with a wonderful person I get to call my best friend. We have had our ups and downs and times when it felt our life was crashing down around us. We have times when we are down and say “I’m going back in my hole for awhile” and we laugh and say that we’d be in serious trouble if we were ever in a “hole” at the same time. Fortunately for us, we have yet to have a time when we were both down and didn’t have the other to help pull us out. But we are faithful and have the worldly experiences to realize that even when it didn’t seem like it, God was there for every step of the way.