Heart Matters: “Goodbye Lessons”

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I shivered and wrapped my arms tightly around myself as Marcia
pulled her van away from the curb, the stacks of Christmas costumes
piled high in the back.

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“I’ll bring them back soon,” she hollered out the window.

“Don’t worry about it,” I shot back. “Lots of time!”

She gave me a quick wave as I hurried out of the cold.

Borrowing had become commonplace in our relationship. We were
mentor and mentee, paired in a new ministry program the previous
fall. With 13 years of ministry experience, I was deemed the
mentor; however, the line separating our roles blurred from the
beginning. Almost immediately, we became like children eagerly
trading marbles on a hot summer day. My bag was heavier since I’d
been playing longer, but she had some beauties in her collection I
was thrilled to find. So we borrowed and traded — not just
materials, but thoughts and ideas as well. And in the process, we
became good friends.

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After Christmas we tried to get together, but our schedules didn’t
jell. It was March before I heard from her again.

“How about April? I’ll bring back the costumes, I promise!”

But Marcia never got to fulfill her promise. Two days before our
scheduled meeting, her van was hit head-on; two weeks later she
died.

It seemed so senseless. I tried to turn my mind to work, but I
couldn’t seem to move on. I often caught myself thumbing through
old calendars looking for days with Marcia’s name scribbled across
the top, trying to recapture the memories of our meetings.

The day of her funeral, I stood in the back along with many others
Marcia had touched. Her brother spoke near the end of the service,
and he talked of unfairness and tragedy, of how much he’d miss his
sister, and what she meant to him. Then he pulled a folded piece of
paper from his pocket. He said he’d found it taped above Marcia’s
desk. He started reading, and by the second line, I began to cry. I
knew the words well. I’d given the paper to Marcia during one of
our meetings.

“Life is an opportunity; benefit from it.

Life is beauty; admire it.

Life is bliss; taste it.

Life is a dream; realize it.

Life is a challenge; meet it.

Life is costly; care for it.

Life is wealth; keep it.

Life is love; enjoy it.

Life is a promise; fulfill it.

Life is sorrow; feel it.

Life is a song; sing it.

Life is a struggle; accept it.

Life is an adventure; dare it.

Life is luck; make it.

Life is too precious; do not destroy it.

Life is life; fight for it.”

As I drove back to my office, I thought of the words from Mother
Teresa’s philosophy of life and how much they exemplified the
Marcia I knew — strong, compassionate, full of life. I recalled
our times together — times we abandoned writing lessons for long
walks, when our conversations turned into counseling sessions,
ending in hugs. I remembered the times we clicked and when we
shared our differences. And I began to feel Marcia’s life speaking
to me, in death taking on the role of mentor. I listened…and was
reminded that although life seems fleeting, we don’t live in a
void. We touch thousands along the journey, and we live on as they
touch others.

First John 2:17 says, “The world and its desires pass away, but
the man who does the will of God lives forever.” And peace came
over me. Marcia’s life was indeed a gift from God, and the lives
she touched are forever blessed.

This week the Christmas costumes finally came home. On top was a
wise man’s red robe, folded carefully by my dear friend. Now, as I
touch the soft fabric, it’s suddenly December again. I’m standing
on the curb once more in the frigid cold. But this time as Marcia
waves, I’m waving back. Goodbye Marcia, and thank you. cm

Molly Wright is a director of religious education in
Columbia, Missouri.

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