My dear friend posted a picture yesterday of a worn grayish sweatshirt displaying Charleston, South Carolina on the front. I took one look at the faded and ripped shirt and the memories flooded my mind. While we cannot pinpoint the exact year, we are speculating that it was around the year 2000 or 2001. In other words, this shirt is well over 20+ years old. With that, so, too, is our friendship!
Having met in the same online forum we wrote about previously during the “Write 28 Days” series, we took our friendship beyond the make-believe walls of the lounge and into the real world. My friend traveled via rail from Arizona to South Carolina just to meet me! While we only had a short weekend together, the time we shared was beyond measure.
It was an absolute honor and privilege to open my home to host her during her visit. We shared so many great and wonderful things together that weekend, and quiet time at home was extra special having her with me. She was my first house guest, and I could not believe she was really there! Live and in person, there she stood in my doorway smiling at me.
We ventured out for a little sightseeing in one of the most beautiful cities – Charleston! We walked the cobblestone streets during a ghost tour which was lead by a great storyteller dressed in period clothing carrying a lantern. This was one of the highlights of her trip along with seeing the horse-drawn carriages at The Battery in downtown Charleston. The evening grew colder as the tour went on, thus prompting the purchase of this sweatshirt at the downtown market area. Alas, no evening in Charleston is complete without fine dining on fresh seafood! As we exchanged stories of our own and sampled the best seafood Charleston had to offer, the bond between us grew stronger. Memories were made that will last a lifetime, as I’m sure our friendship will as well.
Twenty-plus years of friendship, and in those 20+ years we have shared the good, the bad, and the ugly life threw at us both. My friend is a great conqueror, though. When mental illness thought it had a grip on her, she fought the stigma associated with it and made a great life for herself and her son. She raised him as a single parent, which is no easy task! She was both mother and father, and while she beats herself up over different periods with him growing up, I know she did the absolute best she could for him! Just when things were looking up, my friend was facing gamma knife surgery due to a brain tumor. Thankfully, it was NOT cancerous, but the procedure was frightening in and of itself. The tumor was wrapped around her optic nerve, if memory serves me correctly. This warrior woman came out of the surgery fighting like a mad woman to reclaim her life.
And she did!
I’ll fast forward through other things in her life she has conquered and focus on the gentleman who completely blindsided her and then swept her off of her feet! When she first showed me his picture, I could not believe how much he resembled Willie Nelson! It’s funny thinking back on this now, but my heart was completely thrilled and delighted for my friend to have found love again. She has smiled more than I have EVER seen her smile, and her heart is truly happy now! She and this gentleman moved from Arizona to Missouri! They found a little piece of Heaven in each other and in a little home on the range! Now my friend’s days are spent harvesting from her garden and canning! She has chickens and seems giddy as a schoolgirl over Hummingbirds that visit her feeders during the spring, and she seems ecstatic over snow flurries during the winter months. She seems to absolutely love her ranch life now, affectionately referring to their new home as Leaning Cedar Ranch.
Ah, my dear, sweet, beautiful, strong-willed friend, it has been so incredible for me to watch ALL of your dreams come true. A lump forms in my throat and tears sting my eyes as I write these words. I remember the struggles, and I’m so thankful to have been on the sidelines of your life ALL of these years cheering you on. And now, oh sweet victory, how GOD has shown His love, grace, mercy, and favor in your life. I’m so proud of you and proud to be by your side even still all these years later.