Remembering Rebecca

It’s been a while since I have felt anything was worth writing about or sharing, and as the time went on it became easier to stop altogether.

One of my closest friends passed away unexpectedly early Wednesday morning. The grief and shock are two undercurrents of a strong sea that has been carrying me along and sometimes tossing me about since I heard.

I could try and try to write something that would do justice to Rebecca, and what she meant to me. What she means to me. (I’m still not ready to use the past tense here).

Though nothing would ever really communicate all of the things that I wanted to, I was given an opportunity to speak about her today at a memorial service. Fortunately for me, I had very little time to get out what I could. Some of you who knew her also and who were for various reasons unable to be present at the service today asked me to make available my remarks, which I am honored to do.

 

Rebecca2

Friendship, I believe, is one of the truest and most profound ways that God is revealed to us and in us.
Friendships like the one I had with Rebecca, as I am sure all of you had with Rebecca, reveal the senseless generosity of God. While at any time, and certainly at a time like today it would be possible to get stuck in the sorrow, asking “why” and “for what reason” of her sudden loss I want to ask those same questions about her presence, a gift equally sudden and undeserved.
I couldn’t tell you how or when most of my friendships began. I can, however, tell you the moment I was first aware of Rebecca and knew she was someone I would like to know. It was a beautiful afternoon in that overlap of late summer and early fall nearly 10 years ago. It was mid-afternoon, and it was the first day of Church History 2. This class is over two hours long and is an opportunity to learn about all of the marvelous weirdos who played integral parts in our shared faith history. Knowing from having taken Church History 1 already that we were in for tales of blessings and beheadings, all in the name of the Lord, the mood was slightly somber. The roll had gone around and there was a moment of near silence before Dr. Hoyle got into the lecture. Before she could, it began:

If. You. Like. To. Talk. To. Tomatoes…

I, on the far right side of the room locate that this song is coming from the increasingly red faced woman at the back left handed side of the room, tearing through her bag.
Bob the Tomato continued on,        

If. A. Squash. Can. Make. You. Smile…

The unexpected delight and levity of the moment made it impossible for me not to laugh. I did, loud and long. That was the first of many moments of my life where Rebecca brought unexpected joy. That day after class we walked out to the parking lot together. I knew that I had to get to know someone who liked the Veggie Tales so much that they made the theme song their ringtone. I was right— through the months and years that followed we formed a friendship as deep as it was unlikely.

Though very different people we had a bond of admiration and respect for the differences in the other. While neither of us changed our minds, both were changed for the better by knowing the other.

We had a lot of time together in classes after Church History 2. All week I have been thinking of the semesters of Old Testament where we engaged the writers and topics like loss, justice, sorrow and grief. How strange it is to have been instructed in these things with the person whose life will cause you to really wrestle them.

All week I have been feeling this profound loss. The person who was always my second if not my very first call when something alarming happened is the one whose death has shaken me.

I wanted, for the first time in a long time, to really reflect on the nature of God as I try to make sense of this. I pulled out my notes from Old Testament and just as quickly put them away again. Rebecca and I sat next to one another, and there are scribbles and doodles all over the margins.

Right now it hurts too much to look at. That is the reality of where I am at this moment. That will not always be. That will not be for long.

I have an awareness of what is lost because of my awareness of what I had; of what so many of us had. How lucky I am that I had such love that I feel such searing absence.

To know Rebecca was to be truly accepted; to be fully embraced and loved. Your triumphs became her triumphs; your sorrows her sorrows, the longings of your heart the longings of her heart.

True friendship is a revolutionary act. Christian friendship is more meaningful still.
While the world becomes increasingly isolated, frightening and individualistic, to have and be a true friend is to both accept and enact another possibility. It is to dare to create and experience what heaven might be like. It is to glimpse the world God intended while in this one.

As we were so deeply loved we are experiencing deep sorrow. Our friend is gone. To never risk being in this type of pain again is understandable. But having experienced the life changing kinship we have, we must remain open and try to be the friend Rebecca was to others.

What a remarkable person she was. What joy, what laughter she brought into so many lives.

How marvelous it is to be one of them.

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Almost there.

I’m sure wedding planning is not easy for anyone. For me, trying to do this while working full time and going to school full time has proven to be one of the most spectacularly unwise decisions I have made. I want to be married to Dan, though, and don’t regret it.

So what if I just now got my dress to the tailor, got the flowers ordered, and ordered our cakes (with an entire week to go?) So what if we have to make the trip to Buncombe County on Tuesday to make sure our wedding  license is ready, with a whopping four days to go?

There’s lots to do this week, but the payoff is huge. This time next week this guy and I will be married, and I can’t wait.

S&D-011

What’s in a name?

I was never the only Sara(h) in my classes at school growing up. Sarahs with an “-h” were often the minority, and I was glad my parents gave me the 5 and not the 4 letter version of my name.

Nearly all of the other Sara(h)s had E as their middle initial, as do I,  but their names were Sara(h) Elizabeth.

 

I, on the other hand, am Sarah Elaine.

I share this middle name with one of my three aunts. I have come to think of it as more a “family heirloom” than my last name, which is relatively common.

After a bit of fence-sitting about my name and whether/how to change it, I will keep my last name but also take Dan’s. I will also keep (and sign as part of my legal name in its fullness, as I do now) the “Elaine” because… that’s who I am.

 

Sarah (Jane) Elaine (“the pain,”according to my older brother as we were growing up).

 

 

 

 

Balls.

It was bound to happen, as many (metaphorical)  balls as I have in the air:  my job which I love (even when it requires me getting up at 4:30 in the morning, which is contrary to my nature), wedding planning (Dan and I get married in 29 days) and going to graduate school full-time…

It was pretty inevitable that one of those balls would fall and hit me right in the face, which it did tonight as I was in my Monday night psychotropic meds course.

There I was, being my usual ADD self, looking at the syllabus of my CBT class when I noticed the paper I thought was due next Tuesday is actually due tomorrow as well as an assignment I hadn’t started but planned on doing tonight.

A year or so ago I would have absolutely had a meltdown; an internal sermon of self-doubt of epic proportions going through my head as I berated myself.

Not today. This time, I knew the kind of A paper I can churn out in 4 hours (having done so last semester… and the semester before that…)

I’m just not sure if I should consider this progress or recognize a dysfunctional, destructive pattern. I suppose that’s something I can think about Wednesday when I don’t (I hope!) have a paper due…

But I Don’t Wanna

I’m going to tell you a secret. Though I have been, as most women have been, socialized to look forward to my wedding day in a way that is, frankly, ridiculous, it didn’t really stick with me. The “Bridewashing” as I call  it, did not work. My socialization was strong enough that I felt some guilt at first for NOT being more enthused about the minutiae of a money pit like I was *supposed* to be. I’m glad to say I got over it.

We didn’t have a date nailed down for two and a half weeks, and let me tell you – people expected me to have a wedding date. The second someone noticed my engagement ring, they would ask reflexively when my wedding date was. I wasn’t ready to nail down the details yet; I wanted to sit in the certainty of my happiness like a cat bathes in sunbeams.

We have now picked a date – Saturday, April 22. That’s three months from today. It’s also  right around Easter, which I find appropriate because I am quite sure my parents had resigned themselves to the idea of Jesus coming back before I ever got married.

And yet, here I am. Engaged, in love and so happy. And though I am looking forward to our wedding I am so much more looking forward to being married.

The thought of going to a place which requires appointments to try on dresses does not sound thrilling to me; it sounds exhausting. I will do it, but I’m not looking forward to it.

I refuse to feel bad about not being that into the wedding itself. It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be a time to celebrate with our families. I am so looking forward to that. It’s also going to be a bit of a pain in the @$$ if I’m honest, and if I’m really honest I’ll tell you the thing I am most excited about is the big cake.

 

At the end of that Saturday, I’ll be married to Dan. That makes me so happy. This other stuff I remain happily indifferent about.

 

Obligatory New Year Post

Many people are very happy to have 2016 behind them.

While I always love a new year and the possibilities it brings, particularly the crisp new calendar with all of those days yet to take shape and fill up, 2016 was a very good year for me. It is one that I will always look back on fondly.

I started a new job in January, and was promoted internally in November. In May of this year I met Dan, and on Dec. 24 he asked me to marry him (to which I said “yes!”). I finished many more hours of my degree in mental health counseling and now have a rapidly approaching completion date for that of May 2018. I can easily call to mind the many good friends I am fortunate enough to have who have celebrated all of these things just as they hurt with me when things weren’t going well in seasons past.

Whether 2016 was a great year for you as well or one you won’t look back on with a smile, I wish for you a wonderful new year full of far more triumphs than challenges.

I never would have imagined the happiness I have found today at this time last year. I am so looking forward to finding out what is next, and thank you for letting me share some of that with you.

Here’s to the unknown!

-Sarah

Believe it or not…

This, my 35th Thanksgiving on this Earth, will be the very first time I have been away from my family on a major holiday. 
Though it will be strange and I will miss being with them, Dan and I are going to Ohio, and I will have the chance to meet some of his family that I was unable to when we went in the summer.
There’s a lot to be thankful for in my life this year, and I hope the same is true for you too. Happiest of Thanksgivings and safe travels, all.

The “people” who I am thankful for (not an exhaustive list, & in no particular order…)