We spent a lot of time together during her two year battle--down in Illinois and up in the northwoods. Doctors "gave her" months, she wanted years. She received undesirable treatments and prolonged her crippled state to get as many extra minutes as she could with her children. Her bones crumbled and snapped and she pushed on.
Paula died seven years ago today. She was living five hours away at that time and I couldn't visit her during the final weeks of my pregnancy. I asked her to hold on. She didn't think she could.
She wanted me to have a baby girl so badly. My previous four were all boys and she was sure this one would be a girl. Her last two weeks were spent in a coma, unresponsive. I called her husband the night Lisa was born and he gave her the news. She only lived another 36 hours. One more week and I could have gone. Instead, I went to her funeral.
Paula was one of the best friends I've had. We became friends because of our children, homeschooling, and typical mom reasons. We stayed friends for us. To this day I keep with me reminders from Paula of what friends should be.
Friends know that they should encourage and admonish one another, but they encourage naturally, often, and regularly while they admonish seldom and with great tenderness--face to face, not behind a back.
Friends do not let the opinions, successes, or failures of their children come between them. When it comes to children they are quick to praise accomplishments, shrug at immaturity, listen with understanding to concerns, offer advice in love, and accept advice in the same spirit.
Friends can talk about difficult life or personal issues knowing that they will receive a sympathetic ear. They offer advice from a sincere heart that desires good for their friend.
For awhile I tried looking for friends like Paula. But I stopped. God didn't give me the examples in Paula so that I would look for those attributes in others. Rather, He gave them so that I would strive to possess those attributes myself.
I think of how this mirrors my attitudes about being like Christ. I often lose the focus of patterning my own life after Christ and start trying to find others that I think look like Christ. It often leaves me critical and judgmental, and even further from my intended goal.
And as I consider the journey it takes to become a good friend or to be like Jesus Christ I see a road stretching out with no end. I don't think there is ever a place on that road where my focus is supposed to shift so that I am "looking for" others with all of the qualities I desire. I trust that God will bring those people into my life just like he gave me Paula, and maybe someday use my life to be an encouragement to some--the way hers was, and is, to me.