“She was bendable light: she shone around every corner of my day.”
I have written and deleted hundreds of words to try and make this post perfect, and I have decided it’s just not going to get there. I am used to stumbling and failing in speech, but not so much on paper. I can always find the words to write, but words are failing me now. So, I have decided to publish this anyway. I am going to say things wrong, and I am going to struggle to find the words I need, but at this point, saying something is much more important to me than getting it exactly right.
I have a sweet, funny friend named Carrie. We have been friends since we were seven. There have been times we have talked almost nonstop every day and times where we didn’t talk for years – not because we didn’t love each other – but because that happens sometimes in life when you move and live and grow and love in different circles. The thing about Carrie and me is, though, that we always find our way back to one another, no matter how long it’s been. And each time I hear her voice, it’s like no time has passed. She is my friend now, just as she was when we were little girls, and I love her dearly.
Last week, Carrie was diagnosed with stage four cancer and I feel the need to share what a remarkable person she is. How often do we take the time to just shout to the universe how truly awesome someone we love is? Not often enough. So … here goes. I hope that somehow, through these words, you will come to know Carrie the way I do, and see her as I do.
I met Carrie when we were seven on the bus that drove us from our elementary school to the high school where our mothers taught, about 100 yards away. She was little and had long, blonde curls and bright blue eyes and wore a navy beret. I thought she was pretty and stylish and I wanted her to be my friend. I don’t remember exactly, but I am guessing she is the one who approached me. Because that’s what she does. She envelops everyone around her into her ball of energy. We were fast friends, and my family’s move a couple of years later didn’t do anything to change that. That just meant high phone bills for our parents and frequent slumber parties when I visited Mississippi each summer.
Six years after we moved away, we moved back. I was devastated to leave our home. I was hurting over leaving my best friend, and I wasn’t handling the move back well at all. Carrie was my salvation. The group of friends I’d had as a kid had fractured. As we got older, they didn’t want to hang out when I came back to town like they had before. We were growing up and moving on to other friends and other things. But not Carrie. I mean, yes, she was growing up and doing new things, but she never stopped having time for me. She never thought I wasn’t as cool as her new friends. We just never outgrew each other.
When I called her to tell her I would be moving back and we would be starting our 10th grade year together, she was so excited, it was the first ray of hope I had felt for a while. The first day of school was totally awkward. Starting back in a place where a lot of people knew me, but weren’t really my friends just did not have me rushing to start the school year. The morning was just as awful as I thought it would be, made even more so by being told I was breaking the school dress code within the first two minutes of being there. (Um … what? These shorts are too short? Hand to God, they were probably no more than four inches above my knee. Seriously. We were staying at my Granny and Granddaddy’s house during the move and Ava Nell would have never allowed me out of the house in something that even bordered on inappropriate. Ava Nell is the reason for the name of this blog. The one with an endless list of things that nice girls don’t do. And nice girls certainly don’t go to school in slutty shorts.) I made a mental note to make an emergency run for culottes after school and spent the rest of the morning dreading lunch, which I did NOT have with Carrie. All I could picture was a sea of faces of people I used to play with, giving me a less than welcoming reception while I struggled to understand why. You know, your basic teenage nightmare.
I spent 30 seconds alone before a slender, dark-haired girl introduced herself and told me Carrie had told her to keep an eye out for me. And just like that, she became my friend, too. I wonder if Carrie even understands how much she did for me that day. She cared for me. She made sure I wasn’t trying to navigate the minefield of sort of new girl status alone. She took someone who was devastated and feeling untethered and threw me a lifeline. I held on to that lifeline dearly for the next three years. Actually, if she’s realized it or not, I’ve never let it go.
Carrie is full of life and light. She has a big personality and her enthusiasm, her silliness and her laughter are contagious. She loves fiercely and completely. When she steps on a stage to sing, she is larger than life. You can’t help but stare, and you can’t help but thank God He gave people talent like that. To me, she is fearless and brave. She is a big reason this blog even exists. I see her putting herself out there in a way that inspires me and makes me want to be fearless too. Or at least to not let the fear stop me from being. She is my friend and my sister and I love her.
She is fighting. I am fighting with her in the only ways I know how – praying, writing, trying to think of silly packages to send to her. I am asking you to fight with her, too. Pray. Even if you don’t know her or will never know her – pray. She has a husband who loves her and two beautiful little girls who need her. She has a mama who worries about her and a daddy who will be strong for her. She has a million cousins who are just as funny as she is and who will all be caring for her, I am sure. She has friends who adore her. She has a lot to fight for. And she will. But her body is tired. It is hurting. She needs our help. Carrie, who has taken care of so many of us, needs us to take care of her now. As Glennon Melton says, “we belong to each other.” We belong to Carrie, and she belongs to us. So, please pray. Let her name ring in God’s ears endlessly. She can’t raise her beautiful voice, so I am asking you to raise yours for her. She belongs to us.