"How's your family?" I asked Rebecca over dinner a few months back. I already knew the answer thanks to the sporadic caringbridge updates, but it would have been ruder of me not to ask.
"They're having a grand time in their little tiny apartment," she told me, her Pennsylvania accent not nearly as thick as her mother's. Mrs. Karen and I used to tease about the desire to sit for hours and listen to the other talk just to hear our different accents. Mine's not as strong as it used to be, a repercussion of living in the south nine months out of the year, but it's still there to be a frequent source of mocking. Rebecca's accent has faded, too, I noticed as she went on to tell me about her family of five (plus two dogs) living in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a hyper-sensitive (no light, sound, touch, etc.) sister battling Lyme disease. If Rebecca wanted to talk Lyme, I was more than willing to discuss it with her, but a year and a half after diagnosis who really wants to keep repeating the horrors of the debilitating disease? That's what caringbridge is for. Dinners are for reminiscing with old friends, and that's exactly what we did. We retold our favorite stories about growing up together, the three years we were neighbors.
"Remember when we had a four-bedroom cardboard house in your basement?"
"The one we used seven rolls of duct tape to build? Yes!"
It's so funny to hear the different memories we both share in addition to the ones the other has forgotten. Sometimes I think these stories are better than the ones we both remember. I'd forgotten about the time we "flew" into her basement by climbing through the window. She'd forgotten about our "synchronized swimming routine" in my pool. Of course, neither one of us has forgotten the "pump up the new born baby," the restaurant in her basement, or playing hide and go seek. One set of parents would laid down some rules and the other would obey them. Even grandparents knew we had to be home for dinner at 5:30, and after dinner we could play again until the neighborhood lights came on. Those were the rules and we accepted them.
When sharing my testimony I always say Rebecca was placed in my life to provide me when a friend during the challenges of middle school. Really, I believe that to be true but I also believe Rebecca and her family were placed in my life to show me what it's like to live as a Christian. To show me selflessness, hope, discipline, and love. Even now, when I get emails about their medical fight, every update ends with a scripture, hope-filled song lyrics, or a prayer.
Living in different parts of the country now (between the two of us, we could claim residency in six different states) makes it hard to get together and share life on a regular basis. Prior to our dinner last month, it had been three years since I'd seen her. Even though I wasn't feeling well enough to actually enjoy eating dinner, I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner conversation. We picked up exactly where we left off, as friends and sisters in Christ.
All this to say, happy birthday, Rebecca; thank you for the joy, hope, and love you've brought into my life. One day I will watch you play basketball; I hope it's in a WMBA game.