Friday, October 24, 2008

Walk With Me

It began at a crosswalk, I think.

In high school, half of our school was on one side of the street, and half was on the other. So to get from class to class, often you'd cross back and forth multiple times a day.

My husband Joel said the first time he ever saw me was on that crosswalk. He was driving there to pick up his brother (in my same grade).

"Who's that?" said Joel.

"Sarah." said his brother Neal. And off they drove.

A few weeks later, Joel asked me out on my first real date. Sure, I'd dated other guys before him, but it was different. Those guys said things like "Do you wanna hang out?" and then we'd end up in a group at some friends house with chips and salsa and pizza and we'd all sit on the couch and watch television. Not really a date, but what more do you expect from a 16-year-old guy? To them, "lets hang out" was pretty romantic.

Not for Joel. Joel was 18 when he asked me out, I was 17. He took me to a Sonics game. I didn't have the heart to tell him basketball bored me to tears. Instead I saw a guy who drove a cool car and had cute dimples and he was asking me somewhere and the words didn't begin with "uh, do you wanna hang out?" Instead, it was something more proper, like, "Hi Sarah. I'm Joel. Can I pick you up on Friday and take you on a date?"

My heart skipped a beat.

Joels mom and dad raised him well. Joel was homeschooled (yes, I tease him about it sometimes, but honestly I think it has shaped him to be the amazing man he is today) and he seemed more mature than other guys his age. He was polite. He opened the car door. He made casual conversation that wasn't awkward. He offered to buy my concessions at the game. He made even a hot dog and a Diet Coke romantic, simply because he ordered, paid and brought it to me. He anticipated my needs. Other than my father, I'd never met another man that did such things. And we were only teenagers!

Joel and I only dated a few times in high school, maybe three real dates or something. One night, he walked me to the door to say goodnight and leaned in and kissed me. I remember him walking back to his car and I walked through the door, only to close it behind me and lean back against it and smile one of the biggest smiles I'd ever known.

As much as I liked him though, I was only 17 and I was interested in playing the field. (If I only knew then what I know now!) After those few dates in high school, Joel and I lost track of each other completely. Years went by.

Sometimes I would think of him when I'd come across an old note I'd saved, or when a shiny black Honda Prelude would drive by. Sometimes I'd accidentally run into him at Nordstrom (where he worked) or I'd see him from a far. Our social circles would cross every now and then, and through the grapevine I'd hear what he was up to. And then I'd remember that kiss...

Flash forward a few more years. I found myself at some worship service at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle. To this day, I can't for the life of me remember who I went with or why I was there, but I saw Joel's brother Neal in the pew and someone whispered to me in a low tone: "Did you hear? About their mom?"

Kathy had been diagnosed with cancer. My heart broke in that instant for their whole family. I'd remembered Kathy from high school days. She was an excellent quilter and had made some amazing quilts for our class and for the auction. My mom had even worked with her on some and commented on how great she was. Although I didn't know Kathy well, I knew enough to understand that she was an amazing wife, mother and friend.

I didn't know if I should say anything to Neal. Would the words "I'm sorry" even do? Should I call Joel? I stayed silent, but prayed whenever their family crossed my mind.

Then the day came in October (months and months later) and an email showed up in my box. Kathy had passed away.

In an instant, I felt this surge of compassion for their family, and although I hadn't seen them in YEARS, I knew I wanted to attend that memorial. I called my mom and asked if she would go with me. "Of course," she said.

The church was packed. Family from out-of-town, dozens of firefighters from Snohomish County where Joels dad works, all there to honor Kathy's life. Her quilts were hung on display up front and around the church, including a Sonics quilt she'd made that Gary Payton (her favorite) had offered to buy from her. She said no. :-)

My mom and I found a spot in the back row and took a seat. The picture on the cover of the memorial handout was of Kathy and her first grandson, Griffin. I am so thankful she was able to see her first grandchild born. I know he brought her such joy in that last year. He was actually born at the same hospital where she was receiving chemo. I can almost picture her, getting done with that dose and then heading down the hall to see Griffin enter the world. Pretty much the only thing to take your mind of cancer is a new grandchild! And God knew it!

When the service was over, I found Joel through the crowd. He looked so handsome in his suit, and yet there was no reason to celebrate being dressed up on this day. For one moment, I became incredibly self-conscious. What right did I have to come to this memorial? I didn't know Kathy very well, and I hadn't seen any of her kids in years. Are they going to be offended that I had the nerve to come? I dismissed the thought and trusted that God had me there for a reason. I thought the reason was simply to show support to their family and honor Kathy's life. I didn't realize that in that moment, as I walked toward Joel, we were being reunited and this time, it wouldn't fade away.

I don't remember what we said to each other. I don't remember if I hugged him or not. I do remember exchanging phone numbers and I do remember him calling.

"Hi Sarah. Its Joel. Can I pick you up and take you out on a date?"


Anonymous said...

How sweet! What a wonderful testimony to God's plan!

Lyndsay said...

Thank you so much for sharing you story!

Mandy McMahan said...

Oh my goodness. I am home seriously sick right now and three things that made my day today are my daughter's toothy grin, some good news from the hubby and THIS STORY. You are a fantastic writer/storyteller. Thank you for sharing this story. You should save this somewhere and make sure to share it with Olivia and any other future offspring. I know if I were one of your kiddos, I would love to read something like this about my parents and my sweet, beloved grandmother whom I never got to meet. What a special story. Nice writing.

Emily. said...

Ok, I just teared up a little. I'm always amazed how God plans things out just so. It's happened time and time again in my life...Griffin being a prime example. And we're so glad you're in the family. Mom would be proud. :)

malerie said...

Well that made me cry! Not that it's hard to do these days.. :) What a wonderful story, what a wonderful God!

Felton/Casey said...

Wow! That is incredible, and not all that different from my story in some ways. My husband and I actually attended the same high school (and didn't know it) and I was in his younger brother's grade (but didn't know that either). We did not meet though until several years down the road when his daughter died. We met breifly during the week that he was planning the funeral. I could not stop thinking about him. I realized later when I read the obit that we had gone to school together because I recognized the last name. I wanted to go, but felt much the same as you did. So I sent flowers instead. I later met a cousin and friend of his, and gave him my phone number. He did call and we have been together ever since.

Megan said...

aw... what a good story

Melody said...

What an amazing story. Isn't it so awesome to look back and see God's hand so firmly planted in your life.

..::Paulina::.. said...

Oh, what a sweet & also romantic story! :) God is so good!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Sarah,
I must echo Mandy's sentaments, you are an amazingly gripping writer. Mandy is one of my best friends and the God-Momma of my two boys. She directed me to your blog today. I hear you on Spirit and love your heart, however, this story speaks a new depth for me. Just four short years ago my man and I were reunited at the funeral of our mutual best friend Patrick's mother, who had passed away from a brain tumor. Matt, my husband, and I had been broken up for nearly seven months (after being together for over six years). He was not a believer and the next step was marriage, which in my heart I couldn't peacefully committ to. He was EVERYTHING to God, really. The funeral of Pats, the sweet woman God brought into my life for me to care for, was used to bring all God's promises to me into fruition. That very day my man received a gentle and loving, yet VERY bold slappin from his author and creator. One month later he invited Jesus into his heart. Shortly there after my Jesus returned the love of my life to me and reestablished us on a new foundation, a firm foundation, built upon Himself. To this day we walk strong, together, in the Lord. Thank you for sharing your love story. You were used to reremind me of all that the Lord has done for me; blessings beyond measure. To God be the glory! -Sara G.