Here is what I shared at Debbie's memorial service on 3/28/15 at Salinas Valley Community Church.
almost can't remember a time that Debbie wasn't my friend. We met in
December 1989 when the Army assigned me to Fort Ord. We were in the
same home group from our church, Emmanuel Fellowship. If you are in
the military very long, you move a lot. And you learn as you move that
people in your life handle the moving, and the goodbyes that come with
it, very differently. Some people always keep you at arm's length,
preferring not to get close so it won't be hard to say goodbye when you
leave. Some people let you in for a while and then begin slowly pulling
away the closer it gets to your departure. Some let you in and then
let go of you gradually after you have left. And there are those
precious few who let you in and never let go - they remain lifelong
friends. Debbie is one of those precious few. She held me in her heart
through numerous moves and life changes. Every time we talked or saw
each other, we just seemed to pick up where we left off.
In the first few months we were friends, Debbie was a job coach for
developmentally delayed adults. I am convinced her sense of humor saw
her through some tough work days. Ever the storyteller, Debbie would
often have us rolling with laughter as she recounted a days' adventures
and misadventures. I remember one particular story about a landscaping
crew that got carried away with a lawnmower, maybe too close to a flower
bed or something like that. The specifics seem a bit hazy now, but I
will always remember Debbie's characteristic and humorous take on it:
"Things grow back". That became our standard response to everything
from yard work gone amok to a bad haircut.
The last two years I was stationed at Fort Ord, Debbie and I shared a
townhouse in Marina. It was a wonderful time filled with lots of
laughter and great memories. It was not unusual for me to find Debbie
caring for and grooming my cocker spaniel, Radar. She would bathe him
and then blow dry his hair and he loved it. I think he would have stayed
with Debbie rather than move with me if he had been given a choice.
Debbie's unique sense of humor made everything better. We had an
extremely sensitive smoke alarm in the kitchen. She was the one who
found a sign for our kitchen that said "Dinner is ready when the smoke
alarm goes off". It was true more times than I care to admit.
Debbie was always good about clarifying things. Rather helping me
clarify things, and be more precise in my communication, as well as
keeping me accountable. I would usually call her to let her know I was
on my way home at the end of the work day. The jobs I held at Fort Ord
were fairly demanding, which also made my schedule somewhat
unpredictable. I remember one evening, probably in the first two weeks
we were roommates, I called to tell her I would be home soon. Before I
could hang up, Debbie said, "Wait. When you say soon, does that mean
like five minutes or maybe an hour"? Whether it was something as simple
as when I would actually be home for dinner or more important things
like the condition of my heart or my relationship with the Lord, Debbie
was the faithful friend who personified the "iron sharpens iron" friend
in the Bible. I can't begin to measure the profound and lasting
influence she was on me.
From my view, Debbie was one of those people who was always growing and
exploring life, content in many ways, but never complacent. I was so
proud of her when she decided to go back to school and become a teacher.
She inspired me to go back to school, as well, and complete a
counseling degree. I have no doubt she was an awesome teacher because
Debbie always fully invested herself in every undertaking. If it was
worth doing, it was worth doing well.
Debbie and I both deeply desired to be mothers. Many years after I
moved away from California and was stationed in Oklahoma, I completed
the training and certification process to adopt. I was in the process
of adopting Lacey, in Spring of 2002. Debbie was the one person who
sent me a Mother's Day card that year. And although that adoption fell
through, as well as another a year later, Debbie and I had countless
conversations about our motherhood hopes and dreams.
I was so pleased when Debbie and Haley found each other. They blessed
me deeply when they made the trip to Colorado for my wedding ten years
ago. It was wonderful to meet Haley and see Debbie being a Mom. Debbie
and I had countless more conversations about the realities of motherhood
as we walked that path over the last few years. In fact, our last
phone conversation was while I shopped in Target with my 6 year old
daughter, Emma, for one of her friend's birthdays. Emma knew I probably
was not going to buy her anything, but she still felt the need to point
out everything she liked for herself as we cruised the aisles. When
this happens, a fifteen minute trip easily turns into an hour long
excursion. As usual, Debbie rolled with the conversation, and we
laughed about why anyone would take one child shopping, let alone more,
if they didn't have to do it.
The last time I saw Debbie was last June. My family and I traveled to
California to see family and to spend some time with Debbie. My
husband, John, hadn't seen Debbie since our wedding and Emma had never
met her. It was important to me that they both know Debbie better and
for themselves, rather than just through me. We had a wonderful visit
with time to talk as well as see some sights. Debbie was filling out
paperwork for a dermatology visit while we were here. She came to a
question "What is your general state of health?". She kind of chuckled
and said, "What should I say, "I am in great health except for
metatastic colon cancer?" Debbie was never one to shy away from tough
conversations. We talked about her bucket list and numerous things
related to the cancer and the outlook and her concerns. Debbie
summarized it by saying, "I don't see it as dying with cancer, but
rather living with cancer". John and Emma got to know and love Debbie
for themselves. I couldn't ask for more from our trip. She made such an
impression on Emma, that when I called to say goodbye to Debbie, in the
hospital and already in a coma, Emma insisted on saying goodbye as well
as telling Debbie that she loved her.
Most, if not all, of us knew, barring a miracle, that this day, today,
this gathering, was coming. We are fortunate that we had warning, that
we had some time, that we could say the things we wanted to say and do
the things we wanted to do. But this day still came too fast, too soon -
much sooner than I was ready for. I still can't imagine life in a world
without Debbie. I keep halfway expecting her to walk in and ask what is
going on and join in.
But Debbie's hope is our hope - life everlasting in the presence of God.
We will see each other again. I may not be able to tell Debbie
exactly when I will be "home" and I think Debbie will understand my lack
of precision in this case, but I know that day will come for me at
exactly the right time, in God's timing, just like it did for Debbie.
What a reunion and celebration it will be!
Debbie is already enjoying the reward of a life well lived. She has
left an amazing legacy of loved ones and friends. Just look around you.
Her laugh, her love, her life, will live on in each of us and others
whose lives we touch. "She fought the good fight, she finished her
race, and she kept the faith." May we always remember her as we strive
to do the same.