We met standing in line for something at the beginning of seminary, our last names different by only one letter. I had a different last name then, a different husband, only two children. They were a married couple, both leaving another profession to pursue a calling to ministry. They had two very little girls, an infant and a preschooler; I had two boys, 8 and not quite 4.
We had classes together our first semester. We were all in our mid-thirties, and that made us fairly young students. S told me she'd been diagnosed with cancer, breast cancer, and from there the details are faint in my memory. Did she delay treatment to have the baby, or am I remembering a story from my girlhood, superimposing one young mother's death over another young mother's illness?
My third child arrived shortly after the end of our first year, and our paths did not cross during the second when I attended only very part-time. You will laugh to think that I did not have an email address or the Internet at home in 1995-96. I typed my Field Ed sermons in the church office. Once I was off-campus, I was out of the world of seminary.
So the next part of the story is misty to me. All I can tell you is that she died. While my marriage and seemingly my life fell apart in the winter and spring of 1996, her cancer returned and that summer, she died. She was 34.
She popped into my mind yesterday morning, sweet and funny, a situational friend. You know what I mean: someone you wish you could have known better, but circumstances did not allow. While she became ill again in a suburb of Boston, I fought the darkness of postpartum depression here in Portland, and we had no way of knowing each other's troubles.
Today I'm thinking of another sweet person with the same first name, battling another kind of cancer, and praying for the living S and those who love her, at the beginning of a week when the world believes in miracles, when the lights of love connect us over the miles and the years, in life and beyond it.