Our world lost an amazing woman yesterday.
And today a blizzard came to Alaska.
The blizzard would be pretty unremarkable -this is Alaska- unless it wasn’t March and we weren’t all feeling the pull of spring.
And the world losing an amazing woman could be pretty unremarkable too except that it’s not, and cancer comes and shocks us with the surprise of death every time.
Just when we’re all feeling the pull of life.
We’re supposed to LIVE and this cancer is a scourge and it takes too many, and even losing one is too many so when the blizzard comes and we see cars in the ditch, -so many we stop counting- my teen driver says as only teen boys can…
The car in the other lane slid like a Matchbox up the little plastic flexi-ramp of our 70s track and it just left the road and came down in the ditch, -the kind of ditch Alaska is so famous for; deep, steep, and hidden- and it lands like a cotton ball on a powder puff, complete with the powder cloud of snow puffing up all around it.
And we can almost get so busy we forget when the world loses a precious soul, but when I hopped out to make sure the car’s occupants were okay, she is still on my mind.
The car’s occupants were precious souls too, and it turns out they knew me (I so love a small town). I have my man-boy pull our truck off the dangerous curve and get us going on the way to Algebra class while I call the next-door fire department to come check on them as they wait for the tow truck I tracked down, and I call the road department for sand all before we’re five miles down the road.
So when it comes on the radio and I think of her again -so many times in these past twenty-four hours…
what’s it like when we get to where we’re going?
When we see our Maker’s face?
When we shed the sins and struggles?
When we cry only happy tears?
When we stand forever in the light of His amazing grace?
And last week we said good-bye to Billy and the world still rocks from our loss and Heaven’s gain. He was such a big name behind that big heart and big legacy, but on my little messy road, on the path through my blizzard…
…how many times has my little-name self landed in the ditch?
And how many times has someone stopped to pull me out?
When I was young, a pup yet, she took me under her arm, -her arm that was small but willed by her strong drive and strong love to make it work even when it was born not wanting to- and she saw who I was to become and she loved me like I already was where I was going.
And because she did, I got there.
So many others did too.
Love like that, laughter like that -even in the messy- it pushes us and grows us and fuels us even when the road is sloppy and the ditches are deep.
After Brad and Dolly sang, I had a minute to think while my boy drove us on, and I had a smile at the thought of her laughing her way right on up to the One who gave her that laugh, that sound of pure joy.
And then I marveled at how life works because how, on this very same day, could another friend celebrate healing after finishing her last treatment? How could joy and praise mingle up with loss, all at the same time, all from the same disease?
I didn’t get to marvel too long because then Alan came on and it wasn’t Chattahoochee -that song that will forever and always bring her and the old jukebox in the break room to my mind and my heart- but it was Neon Rainbow or Itty Bitty or one of his lesser-known-but equally-beloved songs and I can hear her say
I’m restless. Let’s take a break.
And I see her toe tap and her pant leg sways over the curve of her dressy flats, and then she’s throwing her head back and laughing at something the guys on the forklifts say while Alan gives way to Randy and then Trisha and they come on all tinny and familiar and fill all the minutes and all these years.
I haven’t heard that laugh in over a decade, but I will never forget it all my days because there are so many who will miss it all their days.
She taught me so much and she formed me so much and this world won’t ever be the same.
And later that night, I text the driver of the car in the ditch to see if they made it home. We talked and talked and she wouldn’t have been able to get up out of that ditch had we not come by.
Sometimes a ditch can be so steep.
Sometimes we just need a friend to come along and help us up.
And sometimes those friends line the curved and twisted road of our heart and we won’t ever forget them because if it weren’t for them, we would never have gotten to where we were going.
The blizzard slowed and our new friends got home safely and the day calmed and I still can’t imagine a world without her in it.
But I can hear her say I’m restless. Let’s take a break…
then throw her head back and laugh while she taps her toe.
That sound of pure love and warmth…
And I can’t wait to see her when I get where I’m going.
In memory of Chuck (Sharla) Mitchell. The best boss I ever had; cherished wife, mother, grandmother, sister. Friend to many. And to me.