I had just finished up a long, hot shower. I was freshly dressed. My hair was still in a towel when I heard the phone ringing.
Five minutes earlier I would have missed the call. I nearly did anyway, as I have a new phone and don't yet recognize its ring. I caught it seconds before it would have gone to voicemail.
It was 8:12 am Vegas time on Sunday, August 4. When I looked at the name of the caller, I already knew.
I said, "Hey" and she said hello and asked if I had already spoken with another of our friends. Then, I asked her if Jennifer had died. My friend told me she had died just a little earlier that morning.
We sat in silent shock for a moment.
A lump rose in my throat. I choked it down with a few tears. I wanted to cry, but I couldn't because this moment wasn't really for me. This moment was for the friend on the phone who was closer to Jennifer. She needed a moment where she could cry and talk about how she had seen Jennifer just the day before. Jennifer had trouble speaking that day, and while I think my friend knew it was just a matter of time, we all thought the time would be longer. We always think it will be longer. People were making calendars to sit with her on different days when the kids went back to school. Friends from her high school and college days were trying in earnest to get here to see her one more time. It just didn't work out that way.
I'm not going to tell you that Jennifer and I were great friends. We weren't. We were neighborhood moms in the same support circle. Our oldest children are in the same class and starting high school together in a few short weeks. We survived the early years of elementary school together. We went out to dinner with the same friends. We sat in friends' homes and chatted. We attended birthday parties and direct sell parties together. We offered and received advice on marriage and child rearing. We worried about our childrens' choices in friends. We lamented the overload of homework in 4th grade. When we chatted, Jennifer and I frequently had dissenting opinions, and right now I can see her bewildered face when I disagreed with her on something. Trying to figure out how I could believe so differently from her. Even though we didn't always agree, it was okay. We just picked up from there and gave each other a warm hello the next time we passed one another in the hallways at school or in a friend's kitchen or living room or in the grocery store. Jennifer had a huge smile, a large laugh, a knockout thin body, a large appreciation for good margaritas, and a passion for fitness. Everyone in our neighborhood at least knew of her because she had taught water aerobics, yoga, and pilates in our community center before she went back to work at Mary Kay. If you passed her on the trails in our community, she would give you great encouragement to finish your workout strong.
This had been Jennifer's second battle with breast cancer, and it was cut unbelievably, unceremoniously short. She was just rediagnosed at the tail end of June. However, when the second diagnosis was received, her body was already riddled with cancer. In her bones. In her liver. In the lining of her lung. Last summer following the double mastectomy, she had been pronounced cancer free. Her reconstruction surgery was just last fall. When the cancer decided to come back, it came back with a fiery vengeance.
It feels like we had just learned that the cancer was back, and now, she is gone. I had just asked my Sunday School class to pray for her and her family a few Sundays ago because she said she didn't need meals or anything. She just needed prayer.
Now, she needs nothing. She believed in Jesus Christ and followed Him. I am certain she sits in glory. I am so thankful to know that as we go on to celebrate her life in its final ceremonies on Wednesday and Thursday.
Her husband and boys, however, need comfort, love, and prayers, and they will continue in that need for a long time. I know the boys will also need rides to school and football practice. Help with homework. Understanding when the oldest loses his cool in his first few days of high school. Acceptance at the middle school where awkward preteens don't know what to do or say and teachers don't know the family. Patience at the elementary school where teachers have a classroom full of young children.
And I know my circle of moms will be there to step in. Like they have so many times for me. Like they did when my friend on the phone was going through her own battle with breast cancer. Just like they did when another neighborhood mom died of breast cancer, another mom suffered a severe stroke, when one was lost to melanoma, when divorces happened, when miscarriages devastated, when children were ill, and on and on. It's our responsibilty and our privilege. As moms we may not always see eye-to-eye, but we do see heart-to-heart.