April 21, 2017
I realize this is not the kind of letter you’d like to receive. You are private, discreet, and mostly set out to make sure everyone else gets the attention and the praise. But after twenty-two years of friendship, and thirty nine years of life, it seems appropriate for me to write about you in this forum. I won’t do it every year. But this morning, it occurred to me, while I was substituting in a P.E. class at the local middle school, and running around the field with dozens of delightfully smelly pre-teens, that for the next five months we are both in the final lap of our thirties. Oh. My. God. Where has the time gone?
It feels like yesterday and a life-time ago that I called you up and asked if you’d like to attend a summer Bible study with me. The minor prophets. You agreed. And our friendship forged in the great crucible of our faith.
You were this brilliant 4.0 student, while I was trying to squirrel my way to a high school diploma. You were good, in all the ways a young woman can be good. You were kind and thoughtful, grounded and obedient. I was loud-mouthed and exuberant, disobedient and thoughtless, always on the hunt for a different boy, hoping to secure his attention with my charm. And yet, even though much separated us in our personalities, we both possessed a zeal for life, for God, and for radical living that united us in a bond that is about as thick as blood.
Now, we are so far from that long-ago summer Bible Study, when high school was just behind us and the future was before us. You wanted to learn to hear God’s voice. I have no idea what I wanted. Adventure, delight, to be about something that mattered. We’ve both gotten lots more than we ever asked for.
One night, many moons ago, when I was raising babies and you were pumping water in the tundra, we sat on my couch, just days before you were due to fly back to a war-torn country. Some of our good friends didn’t think you should go. They were concerned, and rightly so, that your life might be in danger. You made the decision to take your risk and serve the people you felt called to serve. No turning back. No turning back. That evening, we stayed up late. We covered the exit strategies, the unknowns, and in our open-hearted way, even what you’d want in a memorial service, if you were flying out for the last time. Some things are hard to describe. That night is etched in my memory. Thank you for always talking about the hard things.
You’re one of the most stubborn women I know. You never give up. Ever. And boy am I glad. Like that time you called me with dengue fever, and bombs were going off near your hotel room. I knew you’d be okay. You are made of sturdy stock and even though it looked bleak, I never doubted you’d come out the other side more radiant than when you dove in. I was right.
You’re one of the kindest women in all of my acquaintance, which really works in my favor. You’ll forgive me just about anything. Like the time I was borrowing your car and got a parking ticket and then didn’t pay the ticket. Oops. My ticket, which was in your name, went to collections. Collections. Not one of my better moments. But it was one of yours. You hardly batted an eye. At least with me. You might have complained to Margaret, but never to me. Thank you for that.
You are present in everything you do. Intentionally there. The day Emma was born you called. Listened to the entire sordid tale of blood and birth and wails. I doubt I even asked about your day.
You managed to be in the room when Lucas was born and read the entire Bible to me. Or at least the entire book of Luke and most of the Psalms. I don’t remember anything you read, except the sound of your voice. Steady. Constant. Present. Thanks for that.
You rejoice when I rejoice and you weep when I weep. Always. No matter how hard it is for you to weep or rejoice, you rally yourself and put me first. Thank you.
You have the moral fibre of the Queen of England. Perhaps that’s why your middle name is Elizabeth. True north is engraved on your soul and it never gets lost. It never freaking moves. That moral fibre has steadied me more times than I care to admit. Like when we were in our twenties and I decided that it would be a good spiritual experience to fast for seven days. For revival or something. This was my idea, of course, but you joined me in it. One day into my seven day fast, I completely despaired of life. I think the exact words were, “What is the point of living if I can’t eat?”
You stayed the course, never wavered on our food-less adventure. I had the great honor of drafting off your maturity, which I continue to do. I did manage to make it to day seven, only God knows how. Maybe I’ve figured out that life doesn’t end or begin with immediate gratification. You learned that a long time ago.
There have been heartaches, disappointments, several jerks along the way, unrequited love. Many countries. There were babies, weight loss and weight gain, Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy, and hundreds of conversations ranging from, “Do you ever wonder if all this Christian stuff is just a crock?” all the way to “I think I’m in love.”
We’ve gone months without any communication, and seasons where we text every day. Somehow, no matter the season, we grapple our way to one another and figure out how to speak the language of our hearts, and listen to each other with kindness.
Anyway, my bosom friend, my Diana, (except you’re much more adventurous than Diana was) I love so many things about you. I admire your tenacity and your tenderness. I appreciate your wit. I am so grateful that you love with an open heart and without conditions. I adore listening to you play the piano. I relish talking with you, and hearing what your thoughts are on every subject, but mostly, I’m just so thankful I get to call you my friend.
Happy Birthday, Katie Elizabeth.
P.S. — I am trusting we’ll crash into our forties with gusto. We have five more months to figure all this shit out. I have faith in us.