I was heavily involved in working on a school project in my graduate studies when my cellphone rang. I had already made a commitment to myself that nothing was going to interfere with my goal of sticking to my school project until it was finished. So I turned my cellphone off.
Five hours later I finished the school project and submitted it, feeling my body release a huge amount of tension that had been stored in my muscles, and I started to relax taking deep breaths and enjoying the feeling of a task that was finally done.
It was then that the remembrance of turning off my cellphone came back to me, and I immediately turned it on. I was surprised to see that I had missed five calls from my dearest friend of sixty years who was obviously anxious to reach me. My heart leapt up in my throat as I saw my friend’s attempts to reach me listed in front of me, and I knew I had missed something extremely important that my friend needed to share with me.
I called my friend’s number with great apprehension I could feel in my gut and I was imagining the worst as her phone kept ringing. I took a deep breath to calm the anxiety I could feel building within me at the expectation of what my friend’s news would be.
The familiar voice that I have known so well, for most of my life, finally answered the phone and said, “Are you available to listen to my heart’s concerns?” I was so overwhelmed by hearing the intimacy and seriousness of her question that I remember tearing up, and replying, “I am always available for anything that concerns your heart.”
My friend simply replied, “I was counting on that very reply and you are the only one I want to or can share this with. I have been diagnosed with lupus that has been steadily progressing throughout my body and is causing me to become unsteady and drop things and unable to focus my vision for any length of time. Therefore, I am retiring from work and I was wondering if you would do my funeral?”
I was emotionally stunned at hearing the news and felt like I had been slammed with a sledgehammer, the emotions were so overwhelming. I cried and my friend cried and neither of us said anything for at least five minutes, just sharing our mutual tears and sadness.
Finally, after our tears had stopped, there was a silence during which I realized my friend was saying goodbye and wanted to share that sacred moment with me. I then realized how blessed and privileged I had been to share the many years of love and friendship with my friend, who had always made herself available to me without any hesitation or reservation when I needed her. I just never wanted to think there might be an ending to this amazing love and friendship we have shared.
I then told my friend how much I loved and appreciated her friendship, and that it would be the highest honor to officiate at her funeral Mass and celebrate her entrance into the loving embrace of God, and where eventually I hoped to join her. I thanked her for the mutual journey we have shared, and she said with a smile in her voice, It’s been REAL!” and she hung up.
I cried very mixed tears of sadness, of expectant loss, of gratitude for what has been, and of hope for what is to come. My friend has shown me that the love we share never dies and is, in fact, a glimpse of the love we will continue to share in the life to come.
The Gospel writer John states that love is of Divine origin, and this writer has experienced it first-hand through the love of his friend. He desires to be that same love and presence through ministry to those who have suffered loss and have been overwhelmed by pain, misery, and loss, as a result of battling addictions in their personal lives.
My friend has been teaching me and showing me through her life that the Divine is truly present to any of us when we love. The highest gift I can give back to her and to God is to be that same love to the broken and wounded I am committed to working with the rest of my days. (eg. 745 words.)