When I was in high school I commuted about 35 minutes out of my small town to go to school. It was a brave decision, at 14 years old, to go to a school where I knew no one. That quickly changed and soon I had made friendships that were rooted deeply into who I was and who I would become. Because I lived out of town often spend time at a friend’s house , after school to do homework before practice or other activities. Liana. Liana was my high school soulmate. Her family welcomed me into their home, but more than that they took me into their family. It wasn’t that they saw something special in me, you see I could have been anyone. They would have loved anyone who walked in their door way back in the Spring 1996. I didn’t have to do anything special, say the right things, have the best manners. I know this to be true because I saw them love other people. I saw them open their door and their hearts to others, over the years, never thinking twice about it. They saw each person in God’s image, as a gift waiting to be opened, to be loved. Her parents, Marcia and David, they loved me and cared for me as their own, and to them I was because I was a child of God. They didn’t need another reason, and I don’t think they ever looked for one.
Last year Marcia was diagnosed with cancer. Just a few months ago in the late Summer, a mutual friend told me over dinner that the end was nearing. I had known that Marcia’s cancer was terminal but I hadn’t known how close she had gotten to the end. It had been just weeks since Liana sent me a picture of her and her mom on a cruise in Alaska–frilly cocktails in hand. Or had it? All of sudden I couldn’t remember. Hadn’t she just been doing well? It didn’t matter now. I got into the car after that dinner and tears fell down my face, I cried (hard) the entire way home. I remember my husband saying, “I don’t mean to be insensitive–but WHY are you crying?” It was a fair question because at dinner I took the information with strength and a clear-headedness, asking only what I could do to help (of course I did–like I said I am the do-er) wanting only to ease the pain I knew my friends would be bearing in the coming days and weeks. It would seem to anyone, even my own husband, that I was “ok”. But I wasn’t. This was a woman who had loved me and cared for me, and fed me, and had been like a second mother to me for over 4 years. That night in the car, sobbing, unable to explain to my husband everything that Marcia had meant to me, I made a promise to myself to tell her. I had planned to sit and write everything that she had meant to me, everything she taught me about love, and life, and just how grateful I was. She needed to know that even 16 years later, I hadn’t forgotten for one moment what she had done for me and how much it had changed who I was today.
On September 19, 2012 Marcia passed away.
I am sitting here today telling you that I never wrote that letter. It hurts me just to type those words. I never wrote that letter. I could come up with a million reasons why. I won’t. I never wrote Marcia that letter.
I’ve thought so much about it since that day. I’ve tried to convince myself that she can see me now and that she knows how I felt and that she is watching me type these very words from Heaven. And as much faith as I have, I haven’t found much comfort in that. If I had spoken those words to her, if I had written them for her to read and to know them, this is what I would have said:
I know it has been years since I first made my way through your doorstep, it seems like just yesterday, though, in some ways. I don’t know why I’ve waited so long to write this letter to you, but time has a way of getting the best of you. When I came into your home, a young 14 year old girl, you took me in as your own. You never seemed to need a reason to love me or care for me. That made me feel so special, so worthy, as if I was meant to be there, with you and your family all along. I know now, that I was, and because of your faith in God and his plan you never doubted that. I saw you loving other children, other people too. Watching you live your faith rather than preach it, has taught me so much as an adult, and as a mother. You tirelessly loved your husband and your children and also whoever God brought into your life, including me. Even to this day, 16 years later, I know if I really needed it, I would have a place in your home. You made loving people look easy.
You always had an opinion about what should happen and what was best, but you never judged or held grudges. I don’t think I ever heard you speak a critical or negative word, and when we did, you always returned it with something positive about whatever we were putting down or complaining about. You didn’t spend your time or energy trying to convince us to do or think differently, to love like you did, instead, you showed us.
When my children bring a friend or classmate home, I will think of what you gave me. I will give them a place in our home, in our family, without needing reason. I will see anyone who walks through the door as a gift from God, an opportunity to love God’s child. I will love, knowing that what might seem a small gesture to me, might mean the world to that child, that person.
Marcia, I read through these words and they seem to fall short of what I want them to be, or mean to you. Maybe that is why I have never been able to speak them, to write them. Because really, no words can express the gratitude that is in my heart for you. Being in your presence, made me feel closer to God, and because of that I always felt like I was right where I was supposed to be, like I was home. So because there are no words great enough to say it, Thank You. Thank you for living God’s word with grace and beauty. For teaching me in a greater way than words, or lectures, or books ever could. Thank You.
Loving You Always,
Even her passing I have learned a great lesson from Marcia.
I have always thought of myself as a person of gratitude. I have a lot to be grateful for and I thank God daily, hourly, by the minute even, for so many things, so many people. Situations others would see as burdens, I see as blessings, as opportunities and express gratitude, to God, for those opportunities. But this promise I failed to keep has changed me. Why did I fail to speak my gratitude to Marcia? Why didn’t I make time for something that meant so much? Just like truth, gratitude doesn’t mean much unless it is spoken. When we speak gratitude, we are giving a gift. It has haunted me every day since her passing and I now have a bigger promise, one I intend to keep. I am beginning a personal gratitude campaign. Each week I will speak gratitude to someone who has done something, small or big. Someone I have been thankful for in my heart, to God, but have never properly expressed to them. Each Monday will be Speaking Gratitude day here on the blog, and I will post my words here, in an open letter. If anyone wants to join me on this journey, please feel free. If not, that is ok too, but all are welcome to join on Speaking Gratitude. You can email them to me too, if you want me to include them here. Speaking our truth and our gratitude together.