This post was originally published December 12, 2011. Today marks 14 years–14 years–since my dear childhood friend left this earth and made her new home in Heaven. Not a day goes by that I do not think of Courtney Brooke.
As I pen these words in front of our Christmas tree, one single squared ornament catches my eye. Oh, it doesn’t glimmer. And it doesn’t glisten. But it still shines and speaks to the beauty of friendship. Two little girls…forever friends. Forever, yet, for 12 Christmases now, she has been forever away, having entered the other side of eternity 12 years ago on Friday.
And my mind’s eye jumps to childhood sleepovers, giggles and pranks. Children’s camp and mission trips together. The year I spent the summer away… “Erin,” she wrote. “God really showed up. He was here. He has great plans for us.” And a year and a half later–she was gone. But great plans, yes–great, great plans HE did have. (Just not the ones we would have picked ourselves.) My mind’s eye jumps to that fateful day…when all her days ordained ended in one swoop swerve of the Jimmy. They never caught him–he who cut her off and kept on going.
Image by central
The tears, the screams, the falling to my knees–when the phone call came. The disbelief…the questioning…of God. He, who I had known since age 9. Where.was.He.now? I couldn’t feel Him. Emptiness invaded like a cancer. And wrapped up in my yellow bathrobe, I crumbled to my freshman dorm room floor and wept. Why God, why? She, whose toenails already painted red. So ready to celebrate…so full of LIFE. Oh, God–Why?
Image by MEJones
In the nights of languished tears, looking out the window at college coeds holding hands and dorm girls giggling and wondering: How in the world can this world go on when my dear 17-year-old childhood friend has left it? How? And how can I go on, too? And HE took me to I Peter. Through grief and all kinds of trials, my faith would be made real. Real. Real faith. It’s easy to say we have faith when everything is going great, I learned. But this–this–is when faith is made REAL.
Image by lusi
And oh how life has changed since then. A college degree, a year overseas, several years in different states, a marriage, 3 jobs, 2 babies. Yes, the 19-year-old girl in me started growing up–that day. And sometimes on the “hard” days–when my girls scream and fuss and whine and wrap themselves around my feet…when I want to scream and fuss and whine right back. I think of Courtney Brooke. How I would have loved for her to meet my kids. For us to have playdates…together. Then I think to the mystery of Isaiah 57:1: “The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.” And today, and EVERY day, she CELEBRATES. She celebrates Jesus’ birth every.single.day face-to-face with Him.