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Yet never before, together, as a friendship, have we so desperately needed God to hold not just the world, but us, in agapic love.
Just last week my childhood friend Kimmy was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia while she was 35 weeks pregnant with her third child.
Kimmy and I have been best friends since we were both placed in Mrs. Durney’s 2nd grade class. We became friends as a result of happenstance, yet God has transformed our friendship over the past thirty years from childhood chance into something holy other. I wondered, however, as I spent three days with my dear friend on an oncology unit just how that transformation occurred. I wondered how I could count the three days I spent with Kimmy as toxic chemo, pasty platelets, and vivid red blood cells dripped into her blood stream as blessed. I wonder how those three days, which left me utterly exhausted and heartbroken, were deeply holy.
What else are you supposed to do when you learn your childhood friend has been diagnosed with Leukemia and must give birth in order to save her life? You show up. (Note to reader: I am no saint. I did what everyone would do.) I coordinated with her sister, arriving after the initial wave had settled down. Her baby boy was safe and sound in the hospital NNICU and my friend was hooked up to chemo. I brought scarfs and haircutting scissors, advice from others who had gone through cancer treatments and prayers rocks. I also brought knitting, because what is one to do? I assumed I would sit by her bed and knit.
I did knit, but I didn’t do a lot of sitting by her hospital bed. Mostly I spent the days lying beside Kimmy in her bed, cuddled next to her, watching her 5 pound baby boy on the TV screen (hospital IT guys connected a live feed to her TV set). We talked and we talked like we always have. We shared stories of our children. We spoke openly of our fears. We tried to plan for her children’s upcoming weeks without her. We mourned her lost summer plans: working with her eldest on reading, teaching the girls how to swim, nursing her newborn. We wept. We laughed. We shared our lives.
Perhaps my husband said it best, “You and Kimmy are like twin sisters.” Maybe we are. Maybe the holiness of our relationship has to do with an intertwined past. But if that were the answer wouldn’t all childhood friendships swaddled in sweet memories mature into deep relationships? Perhaps God knew we would need one another, but don’t all people need abiding friendships?
I have come to one overly simple conclusion. I believe our friendship moved from blessed to holy on that oncology unit because we continued, as we always have, to share our lives openly and honestly with one another. Yet this time, we did it with full awareness that God, as God always has been, was the third friend listening.
Kimmy and I share a common faith. We both view the world as a place tenderly held in God’s love. Yet never before, together, as a friendship, have we so desperately needed God to hold not just the world, but us, in agapic love. We were held.
Kimmy is not cured. Nothing is okay in her day to day life. My visit certainly did not heal her. Yet our visit with each other somehow, reminded us in a new and profound way that God is ever so close.
For the heck of it, a timeline that made me feel better to record:
1984: K & A spend every weekend at each other’s house
1986: K & A go to different schools but remain best friends
1988: K & A begin wearing matching half-heart bbf necklaces
1994: K & A attend each other’s high school graduations and have sorrowful goodbye’s before the first day of college
2001: K & A both get married and stand up in each other’s weddings
July 2013: Kimmy is diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia while she is 35 weeks pregnant with her third child.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.