Theresa had been part of our family for so long that I can’t remember the first time I met her. She was always a perfectly natural addition to our family, present most days of the week, holidays, vacations at the beach. I remember her at my wedding and meeting my newborn son for the first time. Watching my sister grow up, I also got to watch Theresa.
Lisa and Theresa made quite the pair. I’m not sure another person on earth would agree to watch Billy Madison as many times in a row as the two of them did together or change song lyrics and sing these new lyrics throughout the house until no one was laughing anymore. Or dress up (and they did this was when they were adults!)
Truth be told, I was always a little jealous of their friendship. To have a friend that one could call any hour of the night; a friend who would travel across state lines to lend a hand; a friend to laugh, cry, and get in trouble with; a friend with whom there were no secrets-Lisa and Theresa had a beautiful relationship.
My family and I never saw Theresa without a smile, and she genuinely loved people. My sister and I each had other friends growing up, and, I guess, as is natural, we didn’t always like those other friends. However, that was not the case with Theresa. I don’t know how another person could not like her. Her silliness, her smile, the attention she gave to everyone-Theresa’s personality was endearing.
Knowing her as such a beautiful person only makes her death harder. Why did God allow a person to die who had so much life left? Why take a young wife and mother, one who meant so much to so many people? I don’t know the answer but can only trust the mystery with Him.
A few weeks ago, I walked through my neighborhood. The air was cooler, and the trees were beginning to reflect hues of gold and burnt orange. I couldn’t stop looking up, studying the leaves that blew in the wind above my head.
Fall has always been my favorite season. Finally!-a reprieve from the terrible hot of Georgia, a glimpse of life at its most radiant before the dead of winter comes. But every year my complaint is the same-fall is too darned short.
Maybe that’s what makes fall so special to me. I know I have to get outside, walk in that cool air as soon as it hits, because in a week, I could be staring at gray, drizzly skies while wearing a winter coat.
Fall to me is God’s gift before winter. The leaves on the tree could slowly dry up and fall to the ground in a crunchy mess, but no-God let’s those leaves go out in a bang! Their final breaths are spent, not using energy for photosynthesis, but acknowledging the shorter days and resting, letting the green fade from their leaves revealing brilliant yellows and oranges and reds.
The maple tree in my front has a few red leaves left, and I wish I could pack that color into a crayon. Of course, I can’t; I have to enjoy it while it’s here.
When I think back to Theresa’s last months here, I see brilliance as her life was fading. I watched as my sister left her own family for days at a time to care for her friend, to watch Theresa’s child. I don’t get to witness love like that very often, and I’m so proud of the woman my sister is, the friend she was to Theresa.
At the wake and the funeral, I saw pain in the eyes of so many that loved her, and I could feel the intensity of that love. I listened as friends laughed recounting memories, and I cried when Theresa’s father spoke bravely of his daughter and her precious life. I know there is anger over her death and confusion and a whole other range of emotions that we can’t even explain-and in a way, these emotions are beautiful. The fact that a person could cause us to feel, really feel -it’s amazing.
No, we’d rather not have the winter and the gray that looms over us now. We don’t want to feel the chill in our bones or the wind on our cheek. Yet, we will all face our own winters; Theresa’s just came sooner than we’d like. However, in the midst of our tears, we can look at the love and passion and loyalty that remained when the Theresa we knew faded away. And it was magnificent.