"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Saying goodbye to a friend

Debbie Murray Rice, photo taken at the school where she worked as an Administrative Assistant
I moved to Corvallis, Oregon the summer before 7th grade in 1969 and I met my friend Debbie sometime in the early weeks of the new school year. Our houses were only one block away from the other. The first memory I have of doing something with Debbie was walking home from school together with another girl. We hadn't gotten far when her mother drove up and the two girls climbed in the car and drove off, leaving me alone on the sidewalk to walk home by myself. That is a funny (odd) thing to remember because it was so unlike Debbie to leave anyone out. Ever. I must not have taken it very personally since we went on to become very good friends.

This week Debbie died from a rare disease, amyliodosis, which overwhelmed her liver, messing with her blood's ability to clot properly. Today, in a lovely service at the church where her husband Rob is the pastor, we said goodbye to Debbie. The church was packed with many left standing. The service was a celebration of Debbie's life and her devotion to Jesus, her Lord and Savior. Rob spoke first, followed by each of her four children, then by remembrances from many, many friends, other relatives, and colleagues. Deb was loved by so many people.

Because Debbie and I lived so close to each other we became very good friends. She and I used to cut through our neighbors' back yards to get to the other's house more quickly. I think I spent more time at her house than she did at mine. That was probably a function of how things at my house were usually more crazy than life at her house. I remember sitting on the floor in her bedroom one time playing with makeup. I told her I thought her eyelashes were too curly, she promptly gave me her eyelash curler. I still have it. Isn't it funny the things we remember from the past?

In 9th grade Debbie, Carol (another friend who also attended the service today), and I started a Bible study. It was held at Carol's house and Debbie led the study. Carol remembered that we studied the book of James. I remember swarms of kids attending it. As I think back on it I can't believe that three girls without a lick of training would do such a thing. Without Debbie and her deep faith, which was mature beyond her years, it never would have happened.

In eleventh grade Debbie and I had each read the book by Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking. In the book Peale outlined the tremendous power of faith in action. She and I decided to take the lessons to heart. Every day that school year as we walked home from school together (about a mile) we would pray a conversation with God in a dialogue that would look like a conversation between two friends to onlookers. Everything we prayed was grasping onto the positive power Peale promised was available to believers. In many ways those prayers were transformative in themselves, but it was also a year of miracles. It was amazing to learn how powerful it is to pray positive prayers -- prayers one believes with a whole heart -- will come true.

Our senior year in high school we both had boyfriends who were younger than us. The night after the graduation party, which the boys couldn't attend, Debbie and I went over to her boyfriend's house and climbed in the dog door to see him. Another funny memory. Why didn't we just walk in the front door? And, how on earth, did we fit through a dog door?

One of the things Debbie and I liked to do during those high school years was visit the local Bible book store. I remember spending hours in that place poking around in all kinds of books about faith. For graduation Debbie asked me what I wanted for a gift. I told her I wanted a book we had discovered in that store, The Singer by Calvin Miller. She asked me if I was sure and I assured her I did. Debbie gave me that book. I have carried it around with me these 40+ years and sadly never read it. Today as I was sitting in the home office writing a condolence card for the family I glanced up at the bookshelf to see if I still have The Power of Positive Thinking. I didn't find it but I found The Singer. I pulled it off the shelf, vowing that today I will finally read it. Do you know that I didn't even know the book was written in verse? Fittingly, considering Debbie's devotion to Jesus, the book is an allegory of His life. It has become a gift from Debbie twice, once in 1975 and now in 2017.

Debbie and I didn't go to the same college but we decided to communicate in a round-robin letter with Carol, and another friend, Linda. These were the days before email and phone calls were too expensive. The way it was supposed to work was one would write a letter, mail it to the next person on the list, who would add a letter, and so on until the letter worked its way back to the first person, who would write a new letter and remove her old letter. I don't think it ever worked right. Not once. Why? Because Debbie couldn't stand patiently waiting her turn to communicate with the people down the line and would send it back to the person who had just written because she sensed it was important to communicate with that person in a timely manner. She was always so concerned for other people and was so wise in the advice she gave. Often, over the years, she shared her sage advice with me, too.

We never really lost touch with each other, though we would only see each other every two or three years. It was never often enough but Debbie was always so busy with her four kids and being a pastor's wife. I was busy raising my kids and being a teacher. When I learned that Debbie was sick, the gravity of her situation didn't really sink in. I called and chatted with her after she got out of the hospital and was shocked to learn, at the end of the conversation, that she was still on such heavy-duty pain meds. It just hadn't been a conversation where she seemed anything other than her normal, happy self. I thought she was getting better. When I announced my 60 for 60 (doing something with 60 friends for my 60th birthday) on Facebook, Debbie was one of the first to respond. Yes, let's get together, she said. We scheduled that meeting for Saturday (today) with Carol. Three days later Debbie died and Carol and I had our reunion at her memorial service. That wasn't the way it was supposed to be. Today I was supposed to drive to see Debbie and have a good old reminiscing time together. I feel rotten for missing out on one last chance to say goodbye in person. But do you know what? Debbie was my one friend who would be the first to tell me it was OK, that she loved me anyway.

And here's the thing:  I know -- KNOW -- I will see Debbie again. Her spirit is with God now. She told her family on Wednesday that she was ready to go home to be with Jesus. That is where she is now. I believe it. I believe these are the words she heard when she passed from this world into the heavenly realm, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Goodbye, dear friend. See you on the other side!




25 comments:

  1. What a beautiful post for your friend; those memories will never leave you and many of them will make you smile forever. I'm sending you hugs and good thoughts.

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    1. It was so meaningful to share the day and experience with you, Carol. I just wish it had a been a different type of visit.

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  3. Wonderful post about a special person and friend. xoxo

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  4. From my sister, Grace, she wrote--
    Anne, I loved reading this tribute to Debbie. I am struck that I knew very little of the story you told. I didn't know you had those bible studies or climbed thru a boyfriend's doggie door. Maybe I did and have forgotten(?) It just shows you how we can grow up in the same home, but lead completely different lives. I am so glad you wrote this so I could get a glimpse into your friendship with Debbie. I remember her as full of joy with a deep, infectious laugh.

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    1. Grace, The family asked that we write remembrances and post them to her Facebook page. As I wrote that bit about the dog door I had the thought that this might be news to her whole family, too. I don't imagine she probably talked about her experiences with an old boyfriend much since he didn't become the husband. / I hadn't thought of the 9th grade Bible Study for a long time. As I was thinking back over the things we did together as kids suddenly that memory came flooding back to me. I had more memories of how well it was attended, probably over 30 kids each time we met. Carol was the one who filled in the details of what we studied. She said she remembered that an adult from Debbie's church got us started, kind of like Young Life but didn't stick with the project for long, so we were on our own. Amazing that a fourteen year old would be willing to teach about the Bible to a group of her peers. / I bet if you wrote things down that you and Julie Berry did together most of them would be news to me. Kind of the private life of kids. In fact, my kids tell me stories of things they did when they were little and I am shocked since I don't even know all their stories.

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  5. From my sister, Kathy, she wrote--
    Love your tribute, Anne! So sweet! Sooo sad that you were going to get together today....we never know.....

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    1. I know. I kept thinking about the way the day was going compared to the way I thought it would go. I will remember this my whole life...never put off doing something nice one day because tomorrow may be too late.

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  6. From a classmate and mutual friend, Steven Arbuckle, he said---
    A well written tribute to a very good lady. I did not know her well. We did attend the same Sunday school for a time as well as junior and high school in Corvallis. We only recently re-connected on face-book as friends after over 30 years. Last week I got up worried and messaged her my concern. She replied with grace and confidence that all was well and the lord would see to all things. I shall miss her.

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    1. Thanks Steve, for these words. I am sure they will be a comfort to the family when they read them. Nice to hear from you after all these years.

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  7. From a classmate and mutual friend, Peggy Hoffner, she said--
    Anne, that was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing all your memories....made me smile and reflect on all those years growing up♡

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  8. From a classmate and mutual friend, Mary Jo Walker, she said--
    Lovely tribute, Anne! I admire your faith.

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  9. From a classmate and mutual friend, Carol van Hook Schulz, she said--
    Thank you for sharing Anne! God bless!!

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  10. From a classmate and mutual friend, Jean Darnell, she said---
    My sympathy to you, Anne, and to all of Debbie's family. I remember her and her zest for life so well from our CHS days. So sorry to hear this news. Prayers and love to you all.

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  11. From a classmate and mutual friend, Angela McManiman Porterfield, she said---
    Such sad news. Thanks for updating us, Anne. I know she was in a great deal of pain, from which she is now free. May her lifelong faith sustain her family as they move through their grief.

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  12. From a classmate and mutual friend, Laurie King, she said===
    Sad news....good memories with Debbie. Anne, thank you for sharing. Sending hugs to you and all our classmates.

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  13. From a classmate and mutual friend, Melanie Bastian Schaeffer, she said---
    Anne, that was beautiful. I remember going to a few of those Bible studies. You could always feel the love and acceptance even if you knew only one or two people. You all made us feel welcome. Debbie will be missed but, we know we will see her again one day.

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  14. I remember you both, although I didn't know either of you well. What a lovely remembrance you've posted, Anne. Thank you for this.

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    1. Hi Donna. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a note.

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  15. From a classmate and mutual friend, Maureen Brooks, she said:
    What a wonderful tribute to a beautiful lady. I remember Debbie from JR High and a bible study I attended. It seemed we did it at school. Could have been just something she and I did. She was always so sweet and I wish I had connected up with her in the recent years. She is back home now.

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    1. What a lovely thought, Maureen. Debbie really was something leading Bible Studies even in junior high. She touched so many people in her life. Wow.

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  16. From a classmate and mutual friend, Jeanna Andros Baker, she said:
    Beautiful Anne. Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories of Debbie. Hugs and healing thoughts to you and her family.

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  17. So sorry for your loss, but what a beautiful tribute to your friend.

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  18. Very sorry for your loss. What a great friendship you shared.

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  19. During the memorial service a friend of Debbie's stood and shared a prayer felt was given to her by God in July 2016. She thought the prayer was given to her to pray for others, but she tearfully said God gave her the prayer to pray for herself. I asked her to send me the prayer and she did. She also asked me to share it with others. It brings me great peace each time I read it. So, in her honor, here is Debbie's prayer all in her words.

    Debbie wrote:

    Here is the prayer that you requested:

    Heavenly father, we would love it if you would heal our friend. But if not, teach them to die well. Take away any fear. Give her a legacy of faith for her children. Provide the solace needed for her husband and family. Let her life show by word, action and deed that her treasures are not here, not even in Christian service but are laid up in heaven. Teach her to die well.

    I would add onto this, Debbie said – "teach me to suffer well."

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