As a journalist, I was taught not to sugarcoat, so I won’t sugarcoat here either. My good friend Debby, who has been fighting cancer for nearly two years, died on Monday.
I’d been hosting a semi-regular blog for Debby. It’s been some time since she’s been able to type, so two of her longtime friends–including my high school computer science teacher–have been posting updates for her.
I’ve been editing video for her funeral.One of our church staff members interviewed her in July 2002, just a few weeks after she found out she was sick. I’d seen the video previously. A year ago she asked me to edit it for her because Debby was near death and her outlook wasn’t good. I took the tapes, a camera, and a laptop out of town for a weekend where I wouldn’t be distracted, watched them repeatedly, transcribed most of them, and put together a script.
For a variety of reasons I didn’t finish it a year ago. Debby pulled through and within weeks she went from not being able to so much as feed herself to being up and around and actually driving herself places. I started seeing her at church again. It felt downright wrong to be putting something together for someone’s funeral when you still saw her at church almost every Sunday. I’m not that goth. So I put the tapes on my shelf, where they sat for nearly a year.
I saw Debby for the last time in early April. I didn’t think anything of it. As usual, she was late getting out of the 9:30 service and as usual I was late getting to the 10:45 service. She was walking to her car as I pulled into the parking lot. I think her youngest daughter Wendy was with her.
I got a phone call right around tax time. It was Elizabeth, my former high school teacher. Debby wasn’t doing well. I took the news pretty badly. But then I remembered that in May and June 2003, Debby wasn’t doing well. Next thing I knew, I was seeing her in church again. Debby had already outlived half a dozen people she wasn’t supposed to outlive. If anyone could come back from the brink and live another 1, 2, 5, or 10 years, it was Debby.
My phone rang on Monday afternoon. It was Elizabeth. “I have some sad news,” she said. She didn’t have to tell me the rest.
What struck me then was the same thing that strikes me today. Debby didn’t spend much time talking about how she felt. Any time that subject came up, she could only talk about feeling God right there beside her. Although once she did admit her shoulder and her hip hurt sometimes. Then she laughed. She talked a lot about how other people felt though. That seemed to concern her a lot more than anything else did.
Well, one other thing struck me too. Her sense of humor. “When my time comes, it’s going to be a celebration. If Pastor doesn’t play the Beach Boys I’m going to be very upset.”
So when did Pastor find out about this? Tonight. From me. He didn’t believe me. I played the tape.
He went scrambling to find a Beach Boys record. He doesn’t want Debby to give him a hard time about it for the rest of eternity.
She’ll find something else to give him a hard time about. Me too. That’s just the way God made Debby.
Whenever anyone needed someone to talk to, or someone to pray with, or just a smile or a laugh, Debby was always there.
We’ll miss her terribly.