The room was silent, uncomfortably so. My husband was supposed to be speaking, sharing with a group of people our story of adoption. He had reached a point in his witness where he had become overwhelmed with emotion and he was struggling to continue. We all sat and watched, frozen in our helplessness. And then, in her humble and quiet way, my friend began to pray, out loud. She sat, with her head down and eyes closed and, in a way only she could do, she beckoned the rest of us to join her in praying the Hail Mary. It was just what was needed for my husband to take a deep breath and begin again.
This gentle offering does much to describe the heart of a dear friend of mine who was recently called home. For three years she fought cancer, and for three years, those of us blessed enough to know her learned what it means to trust in God’s will and providence. I would call it valiant, heroic, courageous. She would call it faith. While many would sit in awe of the woman fighting the fight, she would turn our gaze to the Lord walking beside her.
I first met her over thirteen years ago. Both of our families had joined our parish around the same time. On separate occasions, we had each been invited to meet with our pastor so he could get to know us and, so we soon found out, strategically suggest ways in which we could be of service to the parish community. Once again, I stand in gratitude to God’s faultless and intricate design as He used this opportunity to merge my life with that of a woman I will forever remember.
Our first meeting is one that is hard to forget. We had come together to discuss the formation of a women’s program that we would end up running together for a few years. I showed up with my son, just a few months old at the time. As a new mom, it was a big deal for me to be out of the house with my little one in tow. I was silently praying that all would go smoothly and we would make it through the meeting without any major meltdowns. It wasn’t much more than a few minutes into our discussion when my little one decided he was hungry and needed to nurse asap. I politely excused myself from the table and sat on the couch to feed him, unknowingly dropping my nursing pad on the floor when making my way back. Safe to say, it was clear that I was a rookie and was struggling to maintain a shred of dignity as I fumbled my way through our time together. I quickly learned that I was in the company of a woman who selflessly offered her acceptance and loved me right where I was at. She was just one of those rare finds; one who loved without judgement, wholeheartedly and unconditionally.
Come to find out, we shared a love and devotion to the Blessed Mother. Throughout our friendship, we were both affirmed in that love through the mutual sharing of miracles we know she had “nudged” her Son to orchestrate in our lives. You couldn’t talk about Mother Mary, or anything to do with her Son, without tears welling up in my friend’s eyes. While she was often teased about this, it was hard not to be envious of her profound and sincere faith.
I learned many lessons from my beautiful friend, not the least of which is the power behind prayer. Whether it was saying a blessing over her children each time they parted ways, praying her heart out while she dug through multiple trash cans in search of her son’s retainers, or selflessly working her rosary beads in request of needs among her family and friends, prayer was as important to her as the air she breathed. She prayed, she trusted and she waited patiently on the Lord.
Although small in stature, she was a force to be reckoned with, as she walked this earth with the strength of faith backing her every step. God used her to touch the lives of so many, and she will be missed by each and every person blessed to know her. Her lessons will never be forgotten, nor will the warmth of her spirit and sincerity of her heart. I can only imagine the awe she is experiencing in the arms of the very One she lived to serve. And I’d be willing to bet there just may be tears of joy in her eyes.