Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Mid-Week Message - Loss of a Friend

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”  John 13:34-35 (MSG)

Her name was Deborah.  I would never have met her if my mother's health had not declined to the point that she was falling regularly.  After Mom had been hospitalized for two days for"failure to thrive" which had been decided upon by the emergency room doctor, we were told by the hospitalist that they could not keep her for that reason and she would be discharged.  My father was beside himself with worry because taking her home meant more middle of the night falls and visits by the fire department and EMT's to pick her up and check her over for any injury.  So (and if you know me this won't surprise you) I refused to take her home which did not please the doctor trying to discharge her.  Because of my refusal, however, he got her into an in-patient rehab program to help her gain strength. And her roommate just happened to be Deborah.  

Deborah was a fifty something year old black Apostolic preacher.  The first time I met her she was lying in her bed watching football, which she loved, with her Bible, which she loved even more, open upon her lap.  As Dad chatted with Mom, I struck up a conversation with Deborah.  She was more than eager to tell me about her grandchildren and to produce pictures of them from her purse. Most of all though, she wanted to know if I loved the Lord.  I found out that she was in the rehab because she had a massive stroke.  One that should have killed her instantly but didn't.  She had to learn to walk again but her speech was fine and she had no paralysis.  She was a living miracle!  I can't remember all we talked about but when it was time to leave and Mom was telling us what we needed to bring her during our next visit, I asked Deborah if there was anything she needed.  She was dumbfounded that I would ask but when I assured her I was serious, she meekly asked for some socks because she couldn't get her feet warm.

In the years following our initial meeting, we stayed connected through phone calls and letters.  She loved to write and get letters!  When my Dad passed away, and then my Mom, she was heartbroken.  She loved them though she only knew them from the rehab facility and through me.  And, God bless her sweet heart, she loved me.  She also felt like I was a part of her family so she felt comfortable letting me know when she was short on money or needed Bibles for her prison ministry.  I was glad to help her out as I could.  My husband and I had our ministry at the retirement facility and the money donated to us was used to help people in need, so we helped her.  At first she only asked occasionally, but later she asked in every letter and every phone call.  

When we moved to Georgia, we no longer had our ministry, therefore we had no donations and were unable to assist Deborah financially.  I felt so awful for having to say no each time, that eventually I let her letters and calls go unanswered and, after a time, they stopped coming.  She had always said she was afraid she would run me off and though I promised her I would never let that happen, I did.  

I tell you this because one night when she was on my mind  I "googled" her.  Sadly, I found that she passed away.  She passed without me telling her how much I loved her and allowing her any other chances to love me. I let my fear of telling her I couldn't send her money take away the last times that I would have a chance to tell her how much I appreciated her.  She always said I was her angel and she was very sincere.  And she was always so grateful when we helped her.  She really had next to nothing and her health kept her isolated in her home.  

Friendships are gifts. Some last forever, some eventually dissolve because of distance or as a result of friends growing apart, some are very toxic and need to be ended, but others, like this one, end for reasons that could be alleviated with honesty and communication.  The two greatest commandments, according to Jesus, are to love God and to love each other.  We only have a limited time to love each other on this earth and we have no way of knowing when that time will end.  I know she is in Heaven now and knows the greatest love of all and one day I will get to see her again, ask her forgiveness and hug her for eternity.  

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