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I’m sitting in my office a little stunned thinking, “I should have gone to visit on Saturday or Sunday.” I know you wouldn’t want me to live in shame, but I do feel an overwhelming sadness at losing you so quickly.
I will find your family so I can tell them how much you meant to me, but right now I want to write out my memories so I don’t forget the impact you made on my life just since early summer.
My church was doing a Love Portland event and my friend Kristin and I were taking Alberta back to her room when a friend of yours found us in the hall. She asked if we could pray for you. She told us that when your husband Edward died about 10 years ago, due to your deep love, you had been physically affected by the loss. I learned later from your sister in law that you also developed a nerve issue that caused you not to be able to do what your mind wanted you to do.
You were essentially trapped in your body.
That day I felt very lost about what to pray. For healing? For release from your suffering? You seemed very close to death. I remember praying, “Lord, if June still has work to do, please keep her on earth a little longer.”
Little did I realize that the work you needed to do was to teach and comfort me through a lonely summer.
You couldn’t move or talk the day I met you, but I noticed your spirit was peaceful during prayer. I also noticed when your friend told us about your husband Edward that you were very aware. I sensed the love and longing for him. Your friend said that Edward was an incredible man. He would come home every Friday with flowers for you. She talked about the Bible study you both were in and how all the ladies would be chatting and eating after the meetings and Edward would come home and clean up since you all were having too much fun. I loved the visual. From the little I heard, I could tell you and Edward had something special.
I kept thinking about you after that day, so I decided to visit again.
From June through August we probably only had about five or six visits together, but each one was so special. As I gathered more information about you, I longed to know you more. Word on the street was, you were a famous Portland librarian whose passion was to teach kids about African-American history. I could tell you were a very smart, driven woman who made a huge impact on our city. Even Alberta said she remembered her kids talking about you when they were in school.
Your mind was 110% there every time we met, but you were trapped by your dying body’s inability to do what your mind wanted. Occasionally if we waited long enough you could get a few words out. There were two events that blew my mind.
The first was when I offered to read the Bible to you. Our blinking system was quite innovative. One blink for yes. No blinks for no. I was quite pleased with myself. Somehow I figured out that you wanted to hear Psalm one. So I started reading…
…and you started speaking.
I don’t know what happened in your brain-nerve-synapses when I would read scripture, but there were certain passages that you could say along with me. I will never forget that.
The second time was after I had done a series on my website about asking questions. You were on my mind because I longed to know about your life. So when I came to visit, my plan was to ask you questions. I could tell you wanted to say something though, so I let you get it out. Took about five minutes, but I almost cried when I realized you were saying, “Tell me something about you.”
You wanted to know me. June, you made me feel so loved that day.
I shared my heart for my generation, the work that my parents do and my desire to be married. It didn’t feel weird telling you that. I started talking about Edward and how I was pretty sure I wanted a man like that.
You smiled so big.
So then I decided to boldly ask you to pray for me. I asked if you could “pray for me an Edward.” And you agreed. Every time I came back and asked if you were praying for me, you were.
We read scripture together, we prayed together and we made each other laugh. We graduated from blinking to writing out the alphabet and pointing to letters so you could spell things out. We laughed when you spelled out, “take candy” after I was complaining about a long flight to England. We laughed when I told you to put your bikini on and come with me to the pool. And we laughed as I fed you baby food and pretended it was ribs and corn on the cob.
When I came by this morning I was so excited to see you. I had baby roses blooming at my apartment and I cut three. One for you, Alberta and Dorthy. When I walked in I saw Alberta first and I told her that I had one for you. I started to walk towards your room and she called me back. I knew instantly and just said, “No.”
I started crying, and sweet Alberta comforted me. She held my hands and said, “Oh Joy…we all go. Don’t cry. June isn’t suffering anymore.”
I’m sad, but I believe Alberta. As I told you on one visit when you actually lurched forward painfully trying to tell me something that you couldn’t get out, I told you that I was so excited to know you in Heaven. A day when we could really talk. I just had hoped we would have a little more time here. You know, since our communication strategies were getting more high tech by the visit!
While three months seems far too short, I think I will view our time as my “Summer School with June: A Private Tutorial”.
I have experienced an odd kind of loneliness this summer that I haven’t felt before. Not a loneliness that makes me want to be with a bunch of people or go to parties, but a different kind of loneliness that is too hard to put into words. But I think you knew that. And in my attempt to be a “do-gooder” and come visit you, I was taught so much. Your loving eyes, your accepting spirit and your few words gave me a gift. In a very short summer tutorial, you taught me about love, God, suffering and joy.
Thank you for your prayers and for being such an incredible teacher your entire life.
I love you.
Until next time,
“She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day…”
1 Timothy 5
Love and Respect (Now) is a division of Love and Respect. Please be considerate.