Years have passed since those days - like over 40 years. Her parents sold the house and moved to Morro Bay. Her brothers grew up and started lives of their own. Marion and I led our separate lives in different parts of the country, but always always kept in touch with at least 1 yearly call on our birthdays. We've never missed a birthday. Oh, maybe we have, but not many, so I choose to remember that we've never missed a one. We are forever friends.
A few years ago, one of her brother's daughters got married, and Marion shared some of the pictures with me. Such pretty girls, her nieces, and Marion enjoyed being the favorite aunt. I remember really studying the pictures of Tom. So much the same face that I'd remembered from childhood, and yet...not... That is what life does - it keeps our face but changes it just enough, so that we know we have lived through something big. Tom looked like he'd had a pretty good life, complete with a good family. And then, the first of the year came the news about the tumor. It was fast, relentless, and ruthless. Surgery didn't do much. But in the end, Marion said that he was peaceful, and I was thankful for that. She had been to see him, to say her goodbyes and have some closure. But even so, we humans leave a hole when we depart from this life, don't we? And in our families, when it's too soon, it can be a big jagged hole.
I've been thankful for my faith. Faith that there is more to this life than just this life. There is more - so much more. I haven't always had the knowledge that I'm so sure of now. I regret that I've not done a better job sharing it with others. I was a little late to the party in even acquiring the faith I do have. It's kind of a sensitive subject - when to speak up, and when to wait for a better moment. Part of it is that building faithful knowledge is kind of like being on stepping stones on a garden path. We are sometimes on different stones. Sometimes we're even on a completely different garden path. But we do the best we can to find the truth of one stone before we step on to the next. I've been lucky enough to meet others on my various stones on my journey through the garden. Others who have bolstered my faith, helped me along, loved me forward. I've tried to do the same with my children, and more often of late, with my friends.
The funny thing about faith is that there's no real proof. It's definitely something you feel in your heart. Something you just know is right, and that makes perfect sense. Sometimes it can make you cry with emotion, sometimes you just feel a warm glow. However you experience it, you know that what you are feeling could only come from good. The kind of good that only a loving Heavenly Father would want for His children. Would you plan a world where the inhabitants - your children - would cease to exist after their life was lived? Doubtful. You would devise a plan where your children could be together with you again, and with the others they have come to love. That's what makes sense. That's what rings true in my heart.
It also makes sense that He wouldn't make you cross from this world to the next alone. That might be scary. Or at the very least, odd and confusing. No - He makes sure that you are met by those you love best who went before you. Familiar faces to welcome, to rejoice. That makes sense. It rings true. And although the loss is great on this side of the curtain, the thought of the love and joy felt on the other side at someone's homecoming gives me comfort. Makes my loss more bearable. Because we will meet again. It may be years, it may be less, but we will meet again.
So I picture my grandmother dancing again, as she loved to do. Her feet are light and her body agile. She is able to serve others again, as she loved to do. And she is with my grandfather - her sweetheart - once again. And every one of her eight sisters and two brothers. Oh, the joy that they feel!
And I picture Tom feeling no pain, no confusion, his eyes towards eternity waiting to greet his own sweet wife and family again one day. His father was there to meet him as he arrived, I have no doubt. Marion said that they were best friends. And so I imagine the hugs, the elation, the pure joy of seeing each other once again. And it makes the temporary separation bearable. Marion says the thought is comforting, but she has not developed her own faith yet. Yet. And maybe that is why we've remained friends for almost 50 years. Why we are like sisters. We will help each other along this earthly garden path, until we each make our own journey home. And I know one of the first faces I will want to see will be hers.