I met my friend Judy years ago when I spent time in Denver studying. Feeling just a bit displaced and slightly lost in the wake of my recent divorce, she adopted me like she's done with countless other wayward souls over the years. She's been like a mom to me ever since. Our relationship has been mostly via email exchanges flying back and forth between the our keyboards over the years because of the distance between our homes.
The few in-person visits we've enjoyed are memorable treats. She has enlightened me and taught me through her experiences and wisdom. She's an incredible person. Gatherings in her little home --- which I've described here before --- can best be described as "holding court": Judy, usually in pink, center-stage, regaling the likes of me and her other friends, with tales of her life. She makes us laugh until we hurt.
Judy is a woman of great faith. I've learned so much through her eyes and gentle suggestions. A few years back Judy told me she was driving in the mountains, something she just loved to do. She had a destination in mind but no real time schedule. At some point as she drove along enjoying the morning she explained to me she felt like she was supposed to pull off the road. She did so, parking the car on a side road and looked around at the beautiful scenery. In that moment, a beautiful, bright rainbow appeared and....as she described it....just surrounded her with the most incredible colors and sense of peace she had ever, ever experienced. She sat there for the longest time, enveloped in the moment and feeling like she was experiencing the arms of God wrapped around her. Rainbows became a special symbol to Judy.
It wasn't too many months after that moment in the mountains, Judy was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. It was in her lungs and her bones and oh my goodness, I'm not sure where else, it was just everywhere. "Termites" she called them, not tumors. She defied the doctors insistence she'd be dead and buried within a couple months time. "If it's all the same to you," she said "I'm not ready to leave yet."
No, she certainly was not. It's more than 2 years later.
I emailed Judy in June to tell her my best friend Teri and I were coming to spend the 4th of July with her. A frenzy of emails flew back and forth, I'm sure she fussed over her apartment a bit. She told me she was making a grocery list so we could shop for her once we arrived. Last Thursday Teri and I threw our bags in the car and headed West toward Denver.
Life truly is what happens while we're making all our grand plans. As we covered the miles across Nebraska toward the Rocky mountains, Judy's little body reached the point she'd had just about enough. By the time we arrived in Colorado her family had tucked her into the comforting arms of hospice where she is now free of pain, surrounded by her family and waiting for the moment she finally goes home.
We didn't see Judy this weekend.
We decided it would be best to let her family have their final moments with her and we will remember her the way we saw her last: smiling, laughing, fussing over our coffee cups with refills, covering our knees with deliciously soft chenille throws for the chill in the winter air and whispering a gentle warning.....Debbie, don't tip back in that chair, it's' old and it's cracked............just as I did exactly that and landed flat on my back in the middle of her living room. Everyone felt like royalty at Judy's house. How befitting she'll soon be wearing a crown in heaven.
The coolest thing happened on the way home from Denver. Rain fell as we drove out of town. We were talking about the weekend. Talking about Judy and our memories of her. Beyond Denver, wide spaces opened up, green and lush against a dark, stormy sky. As the wipers swiped across the windshield of my car, a rainbow appeared. It was intense, bright and beautiful. Incredibly so. It was like we were driving toward the most brilliant, colorful arch of light you could imagine.
.....the arm of the rainbow stretched down out of the sky.......
....over the road.....
...........until it touched the hood of the car. Literally. As we drove, the filmy golds and pinks and greens glistened off the hood of our car in the rain. Just as Judy experienced perfect peace all those long months ago, we felt it now, reminded of the grace with which she has walked through this long and difficult battle with her termites.
An amazing rainbow, the perfect ribbon wrapped around what has been the most beautiful gift of a friendship with an amazing woman. We love you, Judy.