Thursday, May 18, 2017


You all know the story.  [or maybe you don't so I'm going to tell you anyway...]
Several years ago when our lives looked very different and the internet was a brand new, dial-up sorta thing, I logged onto a Marine Corps wives/fiance's/girlfriends support forum.  
It was there, on the world wide web, that I met I Rachel.  My very best friend.  
I was probably just 18 and she was maybe 16 or 17 years old.  Oh, we were just babies.  

Our young lives started rapidly with marriages and the military.  Luckily and by no coincidence, our husbands (at the time) were stationed in the same state, just about 30 minutes away from one another.  We saw each other through months and months of training and deployments where we were without our spouses and alone, far from 'home' for both of us.  
We got really good at doing life together early on in our friendship.  

Fast forward several years.
We both moved home to our separate states; mine Illinois and hers Maryland.  We talked on the telephone at least every day.  I still had a landline.  She tried for months to get pregnant.  It was a huge heartache for her when month after month she realized she wasn't yet having a baby.  But then...
She was pregnant!  And shortly after...once was I.
Mabel was 3 months old and Harper was just 6 months old when I got the call that changed our lives forever.  Rachel's husband was having an affair.  
I begged her to get on a plane to me.  And with just one green suitcase and her baby, she did.  

The plan was that she would stay for a couple of weeks, just to get away.  Just so I could see her through that dark and devastating time. But the darkness didn't lift or subside in just a couple of weeks.  The pain was worse than we initially thought.  So time went on and on and Rachel and Harper stayed and stayed.  
And lived with us in the big white house on Webster.  

A couple of months into her staying she took a job at a local greenhouse.  She had used tax money to buy herself a car and she drove every morning, all through the winter months to get her work for the day and brought it back home to do it so that she could be with Harper.  Shortly after, she began making hair bows for babies and selling them online and at little markets near us to make extra money.  She called them, "Harper's Halos," and she was really successful.  As my little town has always done for me, they rose up to meet her where she was during that time and supported her endeavor. I can say now that we have both learned that the support of people in a little town can literally rescue you from the most hollow places.  

Rache nursed Harper for an entire year of her life even through all of the trauma and chaos that came.  I so admired her for that.  I tried hard to take care of her so that she could take care of her baby and together we made an incredible team.  Little did I know that she would soon repay me in all the same ways and more. 
When Mabel was about 5 months old, I said out loud in the living room, "I don't think that she can see me..." and Rache responded abruptly, "No. She can't."

She loved me and respected me enough to let me come to the conclusion on my own and she sat back with just enough grace to catch me when I fell into the reality that, yes, my baby was incredibly sick.  

I know that God orchestrates our steps.
I know that because I have trusted Him in my life time and time again and watched Him do so in a way that can only be explained as divine.  

So when Rachel's husband left and her world was turned upside down and I begged her to come here, though I didn't know the details of it all then, I trusted that it was right and that it would all be ok.  That He was holding us and that He would see us through. 
I had no idea yet that Mabel would be so sick.  I had no idea that we would spend literally HOURS upon HOURS late in the night up together because our babies wouldn't sleep, or she was sad or I was sick with a headache.  I had no idea that therapists would come almost every day of the week, that they would bring equipment that overwhelmed my house and soul, that Mabel would start puking up entire feeds and need a G-tube and scream for hours on end and that I would need a respite inside of my home that I couldn't get elsewhere.  
A respite in my best friend's heart and sometimes her literal arms.
Somewhere along the line Rachel moved out of our big white house into a little apartment and then another little apartment and then one more.  And then, Rachel fell in love with the man who would later baptize my daughters and bury one.  But let me not get ahead of myself.

In between all of the muck and madness, Rache somehow pulled herself together.  She called all the places she could for resources and help, not only for life in general but to help her get into school.  (And I'm still so impressed with this because making one phone call totally overwhelms me.)  But she never stopped.  For years now I have watched as she has filled out applications, made phone call after phone call, talked to so many different people, received grants and scholarships, attended meetings, interviews, and everything in between to make her dream a reality.  
She never, ever stopped. 

Tomorrow, she graduates from nursing school.

And I'm weeping just writing it.  

Because the truth is, if those yellow walls could talk they would tell you that it sure wasn't pretty in that house most of the time.  I was 'homeschooling' Nora and Braden.  I was doing early intervention with Mabel constantly.  I was searching for a diagnosis.  Rache had surgery and Mabel had surgery and there was screaming and flapping and wailing and gnashing at kids, each other, the dog and anyone who walked through the door most days.  

And nights were worse.  They were much worse.  
There was anxiety and fear and sadness and so many unknowns. 
But let me tell you, these were also some of the best days of our lives.  It was a complete and total disaster most every day.  Looking back, I'm not quite sure how we survived it.  But I know that we did so with a push and a pull of love for one another.  When she needed to nurse her baby and cry for 2 months, I cooked dinner and did the laundry.  When I needed to spend hours on the computer researching rare diseases, she played with the kids outside so I could. 

We learned so much during that time-about each other and about life; how we wanted it to look, what we wanted out of it.  About our dreams for the future.

No one-not even those closest to us can possibly understand the things that were said, done, thought and lived inside of that house together for all of those months.

But as you recall, the bottom fell out of life for this dynamic duo yet again when just a few months after Mabel's diagnosis, I found myself in the big white house all alone with 3 kids.  

I was completely devastated and traumatized. I literally couldn't move from the couch and had never really felt such despair.  My entire life was over, I just knew it.  My baby was dying, my husband had left and everyone around me was happy.  I was alone.
Only I wasn't.  
I never, ever was.  Not even for a second.  
This is the part of my story where I could fall on the ground and roll around like the Pentecostal I once was.  Not only because it's beautiful and redeeming but because in the most broken places were the MOST incredible, supportive, strong, brave friends.  

They went before me, beside me, totally surrounded me, fell beneath me, built up a wall around me.  They would (and did) go to war for me.  
Spiritually, emotionally, physically some days.  
She did. 

For a really long time she was one of the only people I trusted Mabel to be with.  
Her being in my home meant that I could go on a walk or to the grocery store alone.  She picked up the slack in areas where maybe I would have otherwise been slacking.  
I think she could say the same of me and that's what makes it all really raw and beautiful. 

The bare bones of our friendship has always just been our love for God, and for one another.  We have taken everything else in stride, clinging totally and wholly to those two things.  Between us we had a lot of kids, and a lot of baggage and a lot of hurt.  
But even more LOVE.  
So, so much love.

We have learned tenacity and tenderness; patience and practicality; endurance and wisdom.  We were taught, through pain and life and love and struggle and burdens and total heartache ...
that we are fully capable of surviving anything.  

Two summers ago I sat outside on the porch in the heat, right around this exact same time and said out loud, "I don't think she's going to live much longer," and Rache replied, "No.  She's not."

My heart was shattered at the knowing.  But we had walked it so closely together. I knew that if she knew as well as I did that my girl was meeting Jesus soon, she really was going to die.  

She was worried about me, she said. She had never seen me look so bad. 
I say it often-that I can't imagine the pain that the people who love me have had to endure through the years as they have watched me suffer.  But she rose up for me then, like she had so many times before, and many, many times after. 
In the past several years since she has been in school, Rache has, of course, made countless new friends.  She has maintained her deepest friendships, dated and is engaged (to be married this fall!) She has taken on the role of step-mom to an awesome young man that we all just love.  She has raised Harper, thrown birthday parties, been at every single one, answered every one of my phone calls, replies to every single repetitive text...
Even the hard ones, too.  The really hard ones.
And she has not only maintained an A but will graduate with honors.  
2 summers ago, my baby took her last breath while laying on my chest.  
My eyes met hers at about 5:22 am, and I really did feel peace. 
"We did it," I remember thinking.
"We let her be with Jesus."

So much of it is a blur.  So much of it is a disgusting and really hard mess of memories in my mind.  
But all I have ever needed to know is that she is near.  
That all of them, my village, are near.  
And they have always been. 
I have woken up on July 16th (the day my baby was born) for two years in a row to her sitting in the white rocking chair on my porch just waiting for me so that I don't have to spend the day alone.  I have cried hard, wet, fast tears into her arms countless times.  I have wept and snotted into her hair shamelessly far more often than I'd like to admit.  

I have also laughed with her at our children, cooked dinner with her, talked through the hard things with her over and over again.  And despite what she has going on, no matter how much school work or studying she may have to do, she listens.  Every time. 
Even though she's heard it all one million...
She listens every time. 
I have watched her live life with such a determination and also an ease.  I have watched her fight and study diligently to do her very best.  Not only for Harper and not just because of Mabel, but most definitely because the Lord has a clear calling on her life.  

For Harper?  Yes.  For William?  Yes!  Because of Mabel?  I hope so.  
Forever for and because of God?  Most definitely. 
If I were a patient in any home, floor, or facility-undergoing any surgery, procedure or testing...
I would want this girl to be smiling back at me from over an IV pole.  I would want her hand to rub my shoulder so that I could feel the real peace of Jesus and all the He can be in a human.  I would want HER to nurture me back to health in any way that she felt called or compelled to do. 
If I were her patient....

I have never felt more proud.  
This feels like the most condensed version of the longest and most detailed story of our lives but it's the best I could muster through the tears today.  

I love you.  I am proud of you.  I am forever on your side in this life.  You have been my rock when nothing else has felt strong or stable.  You have made me rise up and fight for you and for me and for these kids and for that I am so grateful!  You are beautiful, brave, and so smart.  

Tomorrow is a day just like many others in the way that we have dreamed about it for so long.  We have envisioned what it will look and feel like and from my vantage point, it will all be different than from yours.  From mine, I will see you and all you have endured and I will honor that in my heart for you.  I will whisper quietly, "yes!" as you receive your pin and go on to do the work that only those who are called to can do. 
You are compassionate and kind and giving and gracious and gentle and funny.  You are everything in the world that makes someone a good nurse.  I pray only that Mabel would be a light to your heart as you go about your day to day, and that through you the story of her life will continue to be told.  I know that because of you, others will know her and because of that, she will forever go on and be with you in all you do.  

You are the best friend.  The best mom.  The best wife.  
You deserve this in every way.  
Congratulations, friend.  
I love you.


? said...

I remember those chat rooms well ... and I'm humbled that you've allowed me (and so many others) to follow your journey. Thank you for the raw glimpse into your lives. God has gifted you with words Ramee! I'm sure you've blessed your dear friend with many gifts but these words of affirmation are just beautiful and timeless. You both are a great example of endurance and hope. As I sit hear and weep through your struggles I also lift you both up in prayer and pray God continues to use your experiences for good. Bless you both! ❤️ And I know you already know this... but that Mable... just beautiful. ��

Sarah said...

Wow, this is leaving me blubbering. I never have heard of a friendship this deep, and it inspires me. Beautiful.

Of Pandas and Pirates said...

The best thing to ever come from Grits was your friendship with each other. ❤️