Three or four months ago on a Wednesday, I received a text from my sister that Win, a dear friend of mine had died. My heart sunk… “Oh why hadn’t I called her?” You see, every day since Sunday, God had been putting her name on my heart at different times throughout the day. “I need to call Win” I’d think, but then I’d get distracted or busy and I’d forget. And now, she’s gone. Tears welled up in my eyes and then I sobbed. I was feeling guilty at not calling her especially because God had whispered her name to my mind so much lately. Then, He said, “It’s not about you.” He said it in a kind way. And knowing Win, she wouldn’t be angry that I failed to call her.
Just yesterday, the day before learning of her death, I noticed my dog, Lucy, following me around our house, everywhere- even into the bathroom, sitting at my feet. She even jumped up onto my recliner to sit with me while I watched TV. When I went to bed, I remember telling my husband, Bill, “It’s like that death cat we saw on 60 Minutes- you know- the cat at that nursing home who sat on a person’s bed the night before he or she died.” I joked with him and said that he’d better not die. The next morning, while I was grieving, my daughter called when she learned of the sad news. She was so dear. I told her I was feeling bad about not calling Win but then I found out that she died on Sunday, the day God started whispering her name. I told her about Lucy, and Erin said, “God was preparing your heart for your loss.” I hadn’t looked at it that way.
The last time Win and I got together was at her house last fall. When I greeted her with a hug it seemed she’d lost some weight. She mentioned ever since she’d had the flu a month before, she had not felt back to normal. She had no appetite and was nauseated, but was tolerating liquids.She never had been a complainer, and during this visit, she shrugged it off. Being a nurse, I suggested she call her doctor, but Win said, “My doctor knows how I feel about this. I never go to the doctor.”
So, for the rest of our two hour visit, we talked about God and spiritual things. She and I were always on the same God wavelength, and were also very open and frank with each other. When she said she felt like she was coming closer and closer to Jesus, I asked, “So, do you think you are dying?” Her comment? “Well, we’re all dying you know. It’s ironic, but if you think about it, the moment we are born, we are then dying.” I looked at her and said, “So, what are you feeling right now?” “Not peaceful- I’m beyond that. I can’t put words to it. I’m not content- that is so trite. I’m…..” she stopped talking and just looked like she was searching for the right word. I saw the word in my mind: “You are ‘settled’ ” “YES!- that is it. I’m settled.” Our conversation wove in and out of every spiritual crevice. Before I left, I told her that what we had talked about reminded me of this book my daughter, Erin had introduced me to a couple of years ago, “Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West (Compass)“.
On the drive home, I thought Win must have cancer, and I felt the extra copy of the Love Poems book was meant for her to read. The following day Bill and I drove to her house and I gave her the book, introduced her to Bill, and gave her a big hug. She called me the next morning, all excited and said, “Darlin’ how did you know? This book is just what I needed!” “Oh, Win, I’m so glad. I just got a knowing on the way home the other day that this book would truly speak to your heart.” “It did, it did. Thank you so much! I love you.”
And so, on Thursday evening when I was on my way to Win’s funeral, my heart ached. I thought about our last hug, our last voice communication, about my two friends, Jennie and Joe’s deaths, and of my Mom’s death 5 years ago. All were so special to me- so close- so honest and loving and giving. When I entered the church, across the room I saw Win’s daughter, Ann, talking to my sister, Julie who was Ann’s friend growing up. I hugged my sister and Ann, and I apologized for interrupting them. “Go ahead, you two- catch up. I just wanted you to know I’m here.” As I turned away to gather my thoughts, Ann reached out to me and said, “Patty… you know that book you gave to my Mom? I read that to her often.” I smiled and nodded. Then I hugged Win’s son, Chris, and asked him, “Do you mind telling me what happened?” Chris didn’t know that I had seen his Mom a couple of months prior, but it was soon after my visit to her that she had a mild heart attack, and while in the hospital, found out that she had cancer. She lived her final two months at Ann’s house. On my drive home, I thought about Win- she was light, laughter, and love. And I gave thanks. “Thank you, God, for bringing Win and her kids into my life, for that beautiful book, for Ann and her family caring so tenderly for Win, for my sister being Ann’s friend, for Ann’s kids being my kids’ friends, for Lucy, and for my husband, Bill, who held me closely when I learned of Win’s passing and shares his love and life with me. And Lord, thank for being in charge- for somehow lining things up to help us understand life, death, and for loving us always.”