Eileen was a vibrant young woman, ready to help anyone who appeared to be in need. At a very young age, she had been diagnosed with epilepsy and later developed diabetes. Her life was filled with the usual ups and downs of growing up, having to navigate sibling rivalry while living up to her ‘duty’ as the elder sister of the three. Her father was a military man and that translated into uprooting and traveling throughout her childhood.
As a friend, we shared many confidences, things that would never be discussed in the open air even when it was just the two of us. There was a bond between us like sisters and because we were together on school grounds, people often thought we were blood-related. We just went along with it. It was kind of fun.
There was a period of time when we were physically apart due to her father’s military responsibilities. So, upon return to her home state, it was like a reunion of sorts, although slightly awkward. We were now teenagers.
While our differences of opinion were firm and steadfast, we shared a faith that remained and kept us going. We had no idea how this faith would be so critical to holding us up and in one piece.
“We’re getting married.” Wait, what?!
Eileen had gone away to college and met a young man that captivated her heart. When she broke the news to me that she was going to marry him, I was suddenly the younger-(by two weeks)-sister-turned-older. “I’ve got to meet this prince charming of yours. Please come over with him and let’s get acquainted.” Anyone who was going to marry my dear friend with all of her health issues and family relational complications (nice way to say dysfunction), needed to be known.
The two sweethearts came by for a casual visit one afternoon. With my newborn in tote, I hosted wearing an infant harness. “Make yourself at home.” And at that, he certainly did. Kicking his shoes off and placing his feet on our coffee table, prince charming reclined into our sofa.
With my eyes like saucers, I proceeded to grab a few real saucers and appetizers to break some conversation and to help me take my mind off what was now a table off limits to my baby. Eileen, obviously very embarrassed, elbowed her prince to which he responded with, “Well, she said to feel at home. This is what I do at home.”
Thinking that just maybe there had to be a greener side to this, I offered to host another day of gathering. And again, prince charming showed up with consistency and I can still see those feet up on my table.
This was not vinegar and oil. Day and night. Not even Summer and winter. This was just not how I could see her living her sweet self for the rest of her days. This was a moment when iron was about to sharpen some iron for sake of saving a friend from disaster.
As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend. Provers 27:17 NLT
“He’s not for you, Sweetie. Nothing against him as a person. GOD loves him, too. But I don’t think he’s the man GOD wants you to live your days with.” There was a definite alarm going off in my spirit that sounded like a sinking ship’s horn and I was shouting ‘Mayday!’ However, my voice was falling on deaf ears.
Years passed … silence looming in the space between us … wondering how Eileen and her prince charming were fairing. Then came the call. “We’re getting a divorce.” I invited her over and let her unload the full scale of her agonizing pain. By now, her diabetes had begun to manifest its anger throughout her body and she was in constant pain twenty-four hours a day. I honestly think that the horrific pain coursing throughout her body was more tolerable than the pain of her collapsed marriage.
Though one person may be overpowered by another, two people can resist one opponent. A triple-braided rope is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12 GW
We spent more time in those later years than we ever did as kids. Sharing more home-cooked meals and hours of just chatting the time away. Too embarrassed to show the worn effects of age and weather on her car, she parked around the corner of our house to avoid being seen in it, preferring to walk the extra distance. Trapped in all that pain was a beautiful soul.
One day in January, while I was at mama’s house, I caught a glimpse of a Christmas card from Eileen’s mother. The words: ” … her kidneys are failing …” drew me in and my heart raced. That was last month — or earlier. I was now on a quest to find out where my dear friend lay dying.
After several phone calls, I located the hospital where she had been admitted. Calling the admissions desk, I wanted to confirm that she was still there and I would be allowed to visit. The voice on the other end was informing me that she was no longer there. My head wasn’t on tight enough and I thought the woman on the other end was leading into a chain of words that would confirm that Eileen had been transferred or even discharged to go home. I asked again, “What do you mean she’s no longer there. Where have they transferred her to?” Long pause. “Ma’am, she is no longer here and she was not transferred to another facility.” Deafening silence. I dropped the receiver.
I drove to the funeral service with mama in the car, both of us sharing a somber quiet all the way down the freeway. She had treated Eileen like another daughter. It was hard on her, too.
Choosing to say just a few words to honor my dear friend and to hit the refresh button on some beautiful memories of days gone by, I wanted those in attendance to know she was a true friend.
16-20 Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Message
Eileen and I shared precious moments of looking forward to when Jesus would make our bodies new again. Hers had been chosen to hold precious packages of what we call ‘pain,’ in the form of illness and disease. And with those packages, GOD had determined how she would return Home to Him to receive her new body. The day she left, He tied the bow on it and took her to be with Him.
This body that decays must be changed into a body that cannot decay. This mortal body must be changed into a body that will live forever. 1 Corinthians 15:53 GW
Whenever I think about my life with Eileen, I know with confidence that we will be reunited again and this time it will be forever. No more pain. No more anxiety about needing a transplant. No more sideways relationships. Memories of her remind me of the simplicity of living. Having possessions but not being possessed. Being wanted by GOD healed the rejection of man.
Eileen cheered me on as I did her, championing the steadfast spirit of faith and camaraderie that held us together. Undercover rebels in Asian skin, we fought to remain true to the Hope within us. Because Hope is the Person who saved us from ourselves. Hope is Who kept us persevering when times were too ugly to speak of. Hope is Who held us close when loved ones pushed us away.
I tell the story of my kinship with Eileen to honor her legacy of faith, bravery, courage and loyalty. This I know she would want you to know of her. And if you know her Savior, then one day you, too, will see and meet her.
I love you to Heaven and Back, Eileen ~~
LindaRJohnson, TitusTwo Visionary