I had just returned from a visit back home to Iowa. It was the first morning after a long drive back to Texas, and I was pouting. I missed my friends. I missed my family. Every thought seemed to beckon me home like a postcard reading, “Wish you were here.” Still, vacation was over and my responsibilities as a wife and mother now required my attention. So, as I prepared bowls of cereal for my three children, I pouted to myself quietly.
In every other way, it was a typical start to an ordinary day. I urged my kids to brush their teeth. Checked my e-mail. Even started a load of dirty laundry from our trip back home.
Then it happened. The phone rang and my mother’s troubled voice uttered words that I will never forget. “There’s been an accident,” she said ominously. Mom was referring to a dear friend from high school, now in his mid-thirties, who had been in a terrible collision the night before. I held my breath and my voice cracked as I managed a worried whisper, “Is he okay?” Deep sadness came over her as my mother said, “No, honey. I am sorry. He passed away.”
For a moment, the world seemed absolutely quiet. The chaos of the morning came to a halt as my head processed the words I had just heard over the phone receiver. It didn’t seem possible. There had to be a mistake. The tranquil memories of home were vanquished in that moment as I sat down on the floor, sobbing and thinking, “ This isn‘t the way it is supposed to be. He’s supposed to be here.”
My friend was too young to be gone. He had a whole life ahead of him. He had a wife. He had children. He had hopes and dreams for tomorrow. This was all wrong!
For the next few days, I recalled the dreams we had shared as teenagers. I remembered the last words we had spoken to one another. And I was grateful for the time he had been in my life. For I was a better “me” because of him.
Knowing him had taught me so much. I didn’t want to let him go, but I didn’t have a choice. Too far away to attend the funeral, I sat alone with my thoughts and my Jesus on the day of his funeral. While our mutual friends and acquaintances remembered him together, I sat with my memories and a heart torn by grief. As I pictured them all together, saying good-bye too soon, a single thought repeated, “I wish you were here.”
In the weeks that followed, I found peace in God’s promises. Truly, I experienced comfort in the words of Ecclesiastes which tell us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1,2,4)
It’s not my time, but God’s time. I am wise to remember that and cherish the moments I am given. Each and every one. For they are truly precious. Time has marched on,. Tears have turned to laughter, and life is beautiful once again.
But the memory of my friend lives on in the hearts of all who knew and loved him. Tears still burn my eyes when I think back to that phone call. My heart still aches when I consider the hole that was left in his family by his passing. But my heart smiles when I remember his laugh, and I rejoice for the life that he led. And no matter how much time has passed, I still think to myself…”I wish you were here. We all wish you were here.”
Heather Arbuckle 2011