I lost two friends this week in 2006 – one on a Sunday and one the next day on Monday. They were both part of the church singles group I was very active in during the 1980s and 90s. This has been such a hectic week, the fact Lee and Michelle are both gone didn’t hit me until Michelle’s memorial service today.
Lee was a jovial, heavy-set fellow who liked sports and Christian music. We were not particularly close, but we ran in the same group of friends, shared a love for Christian music, and were friends by default. Lee had diabetes and had become an amputee. Both Lee and Michelle were gentle, kind people, but Michelle had a sincere sweetness about her that set her apart and quickly endeared her to people.
Michelle suffered from a mysterious neurological disorder that caused her to slowly loose her balance and strength. She would sometimes come in to shop at the store where I work part-time. Michelle had seen me when I had skin cancer on my face and again when I had a lump removed from my neck. I healed from both maladies, but Michelle would come in, slowly lurching her way across the store with her unsteady gait, and she would stop at my counter until I had time to talk. She continued to ask me how I was doing long after I was well, and her focus on my answer let me know of her sincere concern and continued prayers for me. She was genuinely concerned with my health while her own body was slowly failing her. That’s the kind of person she was — focused on others more than herself.
At her memorial service, one woman got up and talked about how she had lost patience several times with Michelle because Michelle moved slowly and awkwardly and it was just hard to go places with her. The woman wept as she said Michelle had been the better person. I know how she felt.
I saw a beautiful orange butterfly today which had somehow flown too close to a pool of water, its wings weighted down with moisture, struggling to free itself. Its attempts were futile; its fragile strength no match for the forces that held it down. I got a net and lifted it out of the pool and carefully placed the butterfly in a planter where it made a clumsy attempt to fly and fell to the pavement below where it fluttered awkwardly for a few moments. Slowly it began to lift its wings up and down, then more rapidly until finally it lifted up into the breeze and gracefully flew away.
Michelle’s poor body failed her, weighted down by its time in this world, but I know like that butterfly, on new strong wings Michelle now soars with grace and beauty.
Go with God, Lee and Michelle. You are both missed.
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