She called me again today with tears in her voice. I've spoken with her three times this week: the first, a casual call with a question, after which came some lively conversation; the second, unexpected, with a literal cry of devastation and a complete loss for words; today, the third, still with tears, but also with a request.
After a weekend of difficult news and many prayers, my friend just lost a friend. Not just any friend, but a friend of more than 60 years! A friend like a big sister. The kind of friend for which they wrote the "Grow old with me--the best is yet to be!" adage for the framed needlework sampler in your hallway.
When you're on the other end of the phone and this call comes in, you find yourself feeling pretty helpless. There are no suitable words. I know well enough to stay far away from pat expressions of sympathy. But I found it hard to come up with much beyond, "Oh.... Oh....," which sounds so useless on the phone. Yet when she called, within hours of my supposed to be seeing her, I knew I needed to tell her to stay home, which I did. Because the distraction of our meeting was not what she needed, raw in her emotions as she was.
I knew only a bit of how important this woman was in the life of my friend. And she was so very dear. In the past couple days, I have learned even more, and the depth of this friendship is something I don't know yet. What I do know is that my friend is grieving as she hasn't had to do--even though she has lost her husband already. This is quite different, and, no, it's not at all easier. Not the same and definitely not easier.
So, when she called, I was concerned. What she requested surprised me: ballet shoes.
She thought my girls were taking dance lessons. Not for a couple of years. She then was hoping I could lead her to a store that would sell her some ballet slippers. Long ago, she and her friend took ballet lessons together. With a visitation to attend, she wanted to bring something to this final goodbye that spoke of their special times together. Something her friend would "keep" on her way to eternity. Ballet slippers.
My first thoughts were of stores that are not in our neck of the woods. I knew she didn't have time or interest in a shopping trip. I thought of a local dance studio, and since I was on the computer when she called, I looked up information on their shop. No items listed.
As I was giving my friend the studio's phone number, I had another thought: "Do you need new ballet shoes or will any pair do?" It was clearly the idea of having ballet shoes that was more important than whether they were new. "I wore ballet shoes at my wedding," I told her.
Then it was her turn to say, "Oh.... Oh...."
Within an hour, I was on her doorstep. She couldn't have been more thankful. "She would have liked these," she said of her friend.
* * *
People keep a lot of things around their homes that maybe shouldn't be there. Over the years, I have lost a lot of sentimental attachment over things. I've seen too many things get old, broken, lose their effectiveness, fall out of style--not to mention seeing how many people don't have the basic things to get by in this complex world. It's just not about things.
My wedding slippers were not ballet shoes that I had ever worn in taking lessons. My wedding dress couldn't be worn with high heels, so instead of buying cream-colored flats that I thought I would never wear again [unlike the dress, right?!], I went with ballet slippers, which fell into the "something old" of the bridal "something's." They were never worn much past the wedding day. Still, there they were, in a labeled box in the attic. A future treasure to be unearthed.
As God would have it, though, today they are a treasure for a friend--not in a way I ever could have imagined, but in a way that couldn't be more beautiful.
"All God's children got shoes...."