Long ago, in a land far far away, I found myself returning to boarding school in the middle of 8th grade. We had been in the States for a six month furlough and I was glad to be back in Africa among familiar people and things. In my absence, a new girl had come by the name of Kathy. Kathy and I have different memories of the first encounter. She remembers people talking of my return, I remember coming into her dorm cubicle and yelling at her for something I thought she had done (which she hadn’t). What neither of us anticipated at that point was how much we would become kindred spirits from that time forward.
Kathy was a bundle of life and imagination. She opened up new worlds to me by her seemingly fearless quest to make the world do her bidding. I saw her rearrange dorm rooms that were not supposed to be rearrangeable. I saw her imagine raisin bread into blueberry muffins. I saw things about Africa I had never noticed before. For the next year and a half we were inseparable. Sadly, Kathy’s family had a very unfortunate encounter with Africa. They had sickness and loss and confusion and difficulty. Consequently, at the end of our Freshman year of high school, they left to return to the States.
The next year was hard for me. I missed her terribly, and looked forward to her frequent letters (most of which were written in this ridiculous code that made it a three day process to read). We faithfully kept in touch all through high school, and then when I returned to the States, I came by way of her house. Things had certainly changed, but for the most part we were able to pick up and carry on with our friendship.
Through our adulthood, we kept in touch, but because of various distractions, sometimes years would pass without much contact. Each time we would get together, though, it would seem as if we had never been apart. At some point when our worlds managed to come together again we realized that while the Lord had led us on very different paths He had brought us to be very like minded on many levels. It was quite amazing to us both to see how God had gifted us with each other over years of living our lives.
Kathy is chronically ill. Even back at boarding school, she would be up most nights coughing like a TB patient. When she returned to the US, she did not return to health. She struggled on and off for years trying to find out what was wrong, and has come to the conclusion that she is severely allergic to a myriad of foods most people eat every day, perhaps because of years of undetected Celiac Disease. I have watched Kathy deal with the isolation and sickness that is her existence for years, and have been so encouraged by her continued tenacity to create a tolerable world for herself. It has not been easy, but she continues to exhibit a faith in God and a concern for other people that is both humbling and challenging to me.
Even before Strokeman’s fateful day, I learned at the feet of this dear friend almost daily. But now she has been an invaluable help to me in seeing things from Strokeman’s perspective. She listens patiently to my frustration about his irrational fears, and then expresses how hard it is to face the obstacles that life presents with both sides of her brain. She helps me to be compassionate. Not only that, she has the uncanny ability to say things like, “Your life is crappy right now, and it may not get any better” in a way that actually comforts me. She reminds me of the hope we have in the life after this. She is a daily example of how to keep going when stripped of the comforts most people have in life.
I came to the conclusion years ago that having a really good friend is not a given in life. Consequently I am deeply grateful that I have had this one for so long. Kathy is not only my friend, she is my hero.
I’ll get by!