It was our first big conference at Christar. Mark was standing at the back of the room talking to some guy — a rather shaggy looking guy named Brian. Turns out he had lived in the place of my birth and governed my high school alma mater. He spoke Pidgin English and knew people I knew. On top of that, his wife was a counselor (as is my husband) and they were involved in missionary member care. Needless to say, the guys hit it off and began meeting for coffee and lunch. Soon they realized their wives should be included and that is how I met Patty McGeever.
My husband and I had recently moved to Texas to take a new ministry role and we needed friends. We had also just said goodbye to a wonderful couple friendship that we knew would never be the same because dear Lori had terminal cancer. Patty and Brian quickly filled that hole.
We started making the trek across the metroplex to sit on each other’s patio or meeting half way at a restaurant. We talked missions, member care, counseling, Papua New Guinea, MKs. We discussed church, women’s roles, beer, millennials, grandchildren. We clicked on so many levels. And we laughed and laughed. It was a delight to be together.
And then, after only about a year of building our friendship, Patty was diagnosed with ALS — a horrible, debilitating disease. It felt like Lori all over again. In fact, Patty reminded me of Lori. Both were rays of sunshine to everyone they met, they smiled and laughed easily, befriended many and endured their suffering without complaint. And both responded with, “Why not me?” when folks wondered why they had been struck with such suffering. Oh, of course they weren’t perfect. Those closest to them know the deep valleys and doubts and struggles. But they never stayed there. Their overarching faith in Jesus and his love overshadowed their pain.
While still in the early stages of the disease, Patty visited me. I can still see her sitting on my couch. She didn’t mince words. “I know that at some point, I will not be able to do anything for myself. I will need to depend on others for everything. I don’t know what that will be like.”
Very quickly, that’s what exactly what happened. Family members and friends lovingly did everything for Patty for two years. And then Patty danced into glory. Now she can use all her limbs again and talk, sing and shout. She is free.
I am honored to have known Patty if only for a short while. Her care for others through counseling and member care was exceptional and challenges me to follow her example. Her smile, laughter and wit lightened the load we all carried as care givers. Her influence has been wide and deep and I am simply grateful to fall under it.
So today I am reminded to be present, dig deep, care lavishly, and give grace. Don’t shy away from relationships out of fear of loss and hurt, but appreciate my friends for what they bring to my life right now.
I smile to think that as Patty is walking, running, and jumping on the streets of heaven that maybe — just maybe — she has met my Lori. I rejoice that I will have eternity to spend with both of them.