“They say we go to college to find our husbands, but I’m convinced we go to college to find our bridesmaids.”
These words, uttered Saturday from the maid of honor at the wedding we were attending, struck me. Across the reception hall, I looked at my friend, Beth, the maid of honor from my own wedding. Her head turned, searching for me in the crowd. Our eyes met and we both immediately began to cry.
Thirteen years ago, she stood in all her blond gorgeousness to share at our weekly Campus Crusade meeting. “I’d like y’all to pray for…” I don’t remember what her request was, but I remember being struck by her ability to share her heart so freely, so willingly. I’ll also never forget that deep Virginia, Louisiana, Texas accent. I hear it every week on the phone still.
We met every week in college for Bible study, then accountability, then just to hang out in the Airport Lounge and talk, our southern accents lilting through the air. We danced like crazy girls at Nut House parties, and we dreamed like school girls of our own weddings. We did each other’s hair on graduation day, and we endured the rain and watched our perfect coifs wilt. She celebrated every step of my relationship with Bri, and she stood beside me at my wedding. She toasted our future.
I will never forget the picture of her out the back window of our car on our wedding day. Standing alone at the edge of the parking lot, hands clasped over her heart, tears streaming down her face. She left for a job in Wisconsin the week of our honeymoon. And I wept over the loss. Then God saw fit to bring her back… one month before my thyroid cancer diagnosis eleven years ago.
She held my hand the day of my first thyroid cancer surgery (and asked the nurse if she could have some of my drugs to calm her down). She sat with me for hours the day we lost our first baby to an ectopic pregnancy. She watched the birth of my two oldest children (and made my husband watch The Bachelorette in the hospital room while I marched the halls). She missed the birth of our daughter by 4 days. She lived only blocks from us for years, and yet we still talked on the phone every single day. She dreamed with me of her wedding day, and often talked of how she wanted me pregnant in her wedding (I’ll still never figure that one out).
She met her future husband, and we welcomed him into our lives. They came to our door to share the news of their engagement, and it was the same day we discovered we were pregnant with our Bear. And seven months later, I stood in all my eight-month pregnant glory and wept like a child when I hugged her in her wedding gown. And then she moved… to seminary with Dale. And I wept like a child and asked God why He was taking my friend so far away again.
She has struggled with her health, and almost three years ago now, we piled in the car and drove 12 hours out to St. Louis, because I HAD to see her. I HAD to hold her. I HAD to know she was okay. And then 6 months later, she came back here because she HAD to see me. She HAD to hold me. She HAD to know I was okay. And she stood next to me and cried as my long, dark locks were shaved off my head… the beginnings of my chemo and the emotional drama that would be my life for months… now almost 2 years.
Four months ago, her little Emma entered the world, and I missed being in the delivery room by 2 weeks. But we drove out, because I HAD to see her, I HAD to hold her, I HAD to know they were all okay. And the drama for all of us continues. Beth and I joke about how we are already little old women in our thirties… but we also dream of the day when we will be Wal-Mart greeters and dye our gray hair purple and blue.
We said good-bye again yesterday as she and Dale and Emma drove away from our house, and I cried. So much life we have lived together over the past years. So much we have shared. So much love and loss. So much suffering in our cup, but so much encouragement to pour over each other. So much clinging together to the sweetness of a Savior Who has given us more than we could ever imagine. He gave us each other.
I went to college and I found my husband, my soulmate.
But I also found my bridesmaid, my heart friend.
I am blessed. So very blessed.