On this day in 2013, Brandon drove me south along winding, hilly roads to visit Jenny and her family for the afternoon. They’d left Houston to spend some time at the Toledo Bend lake house for the weekend. In Brandon’s mind, I could have left him at any time. To avoid potential regret, he always said “yes” when it was in his power to do so. He’s amazing.
If you’ve been reading long enough, you may remember my friend Jenny. She would have turned 43 this week. Our friendship was the result of a “chance” meeting only God is creative enough to dream up.
She and I were so glad to see each other that first day of September. What our smiles don’t tell you is how hard that year had been.
In January, her doctor had told her she didn’t have more than a few weeks to live. I had begun to feel the effects of being poisoned by a flouroquinolone drug but had no idea what was wrong with me. Life unraveled for us both.
In May, we almost died. The summer had been hard and glorious. (To explain that would require many words, most of which I’ve already written.)
This meeting was a gift from the Lord. Unplanned. Unlooked for. Apart from her wedding the following month, this was the last time we saw one another.
We talked. We laughed. I showed her my book of notes and sketches for what would become Eleora. She “oohed” and “ahhed”, ever-encouraging, and gave me a colored drawing she’d done of a bedroom. It’s still on display in my home. I love it. Heavenly sweetness wafted through the room. It smelled like hope.
She died six months later.
Survivor’s guilt is real, y’all. For the longest time I couldn’t shake it, especially after I was healed. Of the two of us, I felt like it should have been her. She’d held on to faith more tightly. She’d fought harder. She deserved it.
Over the last four years, God has revealed himself to me in countless ways, all of which have brought truth and healing. I’ve had to forgive myself for being “the one who lived”, as messed up as that sounds, and release myself from layers of false-responsibility.
I’ve had to learn that you can’t earn healing. Jesus earned it for us. Healing is part of the inheritance of every believer. A gift, which can only be received.
Sometimes we receive it here in this world that’s passing away. Personally, I think more is available than we currently see, which is why I pray for as many sick, dying, and dead people—you read that right—as I can get my hands on. But the kingdom is still coming. It’s not fully here yet. The death rate is still 100%. According to God’s Word, only three people have made it out of here alive, and it’s been a few hot minutes since the last.
I have no doubt that Jenny is healed now. She’s more healed than I am. You can’t help but be healed when you’re in that close of proximity to the Father. And yet, she’s gone.
I grieve but not as one who has no hope. We’ll see each other again. (Though between you and me, there’s only One Face I’ll be looking for when I pass to the other realm, and I won’t be satisfied until I see it.) In the meantime, her life continues on in me in the seeds she planted.
I learned to see people more clearly through her eyes. The love with which she loved me and others transformed me. It was so natural for her. She reached out to people in strange and risky ways, which challenge me to this day. She wasn’t perfect, and I could feel how much God loved her. It was so deep, so true, so powerful. Unyielding. Her life reminds me that God doesn’t require perfection. Openness is enough.
Jenny is part of me. She’s part of the reason I am the way I am today. If I have seen you, prayed for you, or done something peculiar that made you feel peculiarly known and loved, Jenny was part of it.
On the other hand, her death motivates me as much as her life. Cancer is of the devil. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and I aim to partner with him in that endeavor. Praying against cancer scared me for a long time after Jenny died. Now I get vengeful satisfaction from it. I’ve seen God heal several people of cancer who’d been given a grim prognosis over the past several years. Two of them I prayed for were touched by the power of God and healed instantly. Tumors disappeared on the spot. It was awesome!
You never know what story your life—and death—will tell. You never know what sequels will be written. Most of us have no idea of the impact we’re having in any given moment, what seeds we’re planting. I don’t think we’re supposed to.
Planting is to be done in faith. Reaping comes in the season of sight.
Jenny carved her space in my heart one phone call, one text, one email, one prayer, one encouraging word, one visit, one act of selfless love at a time. I’ll never forget her. Even when my mind isn’t thinking of her, many of my actions bear her watermark.
I’ve cried a lot of tears over that girl. Having her and losing her messed me up. For a long time, I looked for a replacement. I’ve given up. She was one of a kind. Accepting this, I receive the time we spent together as a rare, precious gift, deal with the ache, and let Jesus fill the void.
I wouldn’t do anything different if I had the choice again. The pain was worth it—worth her. Knowing that is one of the reasons I know I can do this foster care thing my family and I are preparing to do.
I can do hard, heartbreaking things and through the shattering, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, become more whole and glorious than I was before I broke.
The secret path from glory to glory, Beloved, can only be discovered in death unto death. That’s what makes Jenny more alive than anyone reading this today.
Jesus, will you tell her I said, “Happy birthday”, and I’ll be seeing her soon?
I have a few more people to love and a few more seeds to plant. But soon.