"The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are moments when we touch one another, when we are there in the most attentive or caring way. This simple and profound intimacy is the love that we all long for. " ~Jack Kornfield
I've been alluding to some events from our last two days of our trip that profoundly impacted me- more than I could possibly express. The tears, long withheld, cloud my eyes as I reflect back this gloomy and wet Sunday morning.
While in Nashville our first day, it was the first photo of Nashville that I posted on instagram that my beautiful friend, Shannon, commented on.
"Are you in Tennessee?" She asked.
As soon as I saw it, something stirred inside me. Why hadn't I thought of it sooner?
Shannon, herself living in Tennessee, had asked me to come visit her when we went to Myrtle Beach last spring. We drove right through her town. But we had family with small children anxiously waiting for us in Greenville, SC. And somehow I knew I wanted more than a couple of minutes to see Shannon and the girls.
Do you all remember Shannon? Or the Shan Clan as our dear Sara (Gitzen Girl) so often referred to them?
This is a screen capture of Sara and Shannon with "Grace girl" and "Pearl girl." Sara had her own names of affection for them.
Shannon and Jason and the girls would drive 15 hours, just to be with Sara for a few days. Behind the scenes, Shannon used her flip camera to video moments from their day and share them daily with Sara. If Sara wasn't leaving her house, the world was coming to her through two adorable girls and their momma, who all travel extensively for dance competition and shows.
It was Shannon who so graciously wrote Sara's blog when Sara entered hospice and started the last stage of her journey home. Shannon so eloquently kept us all informed, while epitomizing the true meaning of friendship and love that knows no bounds.
And when Sara left us for her heavenly home, it was Shannon, who would text me, send me cards and notes, loving me, praying for me, from afar.
Why hadn't I thought of this sooner? Embrace! Now- was the time to go and meet Shannon!
Despite a late night out to the Grand Ole Opry, (will blog at a later time), Rick and I left Nashville last Friday morning to drive a few hours to meet our Shannon... finally.
I never would have dreamt, conjured in my brain, believed- I'd ever meet or see Shannon face to face. That I'd have my own cheek, touching hers, just like she was able to with Sara.
As most of you know, I tried on 3 separate occasions to visit Sara myself, who was a 10 hour drive from our house. But there was a massive flood the one year. And Sara was sick the second time and unable to have visitors. The third time, I was having not just chemo, but surgery at the time of her funeral.
So Rick and I met the Shan Clan. We spent an entire afternoon at their beautiful house. We ate delicious food, laughed at the funny and utterly adorable girls. Watched an impromptu dance recital that would literally blow your socks off. And just had such a heart-filling, soul-nourishing, wonderful time.
I could have stayed all night- and they certainly extended the invitation. But we still had several hours to get to Louisville.
One of the last "gifts" I received- because really, knowing Shannon is the biggest gift of all- was a bag with goodies, including the beautiful choose joy pillow from above. Sara had received one, Shannon had one, and now I had one. Talk about connecting the dots! Speak of the aligning stars!
I clung to that pillow all the way to Louisville, and off and on throughout our drive the next day where we eventually ended up in Des Moines, Iowa.
And this is when the thought occurred to me.
Again- out of nowhere- it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I scoured my phone for the name, the location, the address.
It was clearly out of our way, but if we zig-zagged some of the back country roads, could we do it?
Rick was all in.
Any guesses where we decided to go?
It was 5 years in the making... October 6th, 2008 was the first time she officially came over to leave me a comment on my blog.
Our "story" began to grow from that moment on.
As a stay-at-home mom, I had few moms home during the day time hours.
But here was my new friend- who was home- day and night. Once I figured out how open she was to communicating, the emails, texts, and comments flew between us.
I was so non-techie. She laughed and gave me a link tutorial.
It felt like we were kindred spirits in so many regards.
When I talked her into using her inspiring quotes as blog buttons and offering to pay for them to be made- she surprised me by learning code all on her own.
When I asked her big questions about her faith- she wrote blog posts with bigger answers than I could have ever discovered on my own.
I watched as others began to embrace her message, her faith, her indomitable spirit. Her blog grew, her audience grew, and above all else my bond with her was based on pure and unconditional love, like I've rarely experienced.
She mentored me so, and it was I for the longest time who thought she needed me.
Oh how I've learned.
Quite honestly, looking back, I think God placed her in my life to prepare me for my own journey through a life-threatening illness. And to show me what pure love feels like.
Have you figured out who she is by now?
After almost 5 years to the date, I finally got to "meet" my beloved Gitz!!
I traveled almost directly from Shannon, to our sweet Sara- with my choose joy pillow firmly in my hands.
I sat in such peace and tranquility. I cried on and off the entire way there. Emptying... to fill... as she taught me.
I made a video of the whole experience. It didn't survive my still technically inept hands! Some things just don't change.
But I forever have her etched into the fabric of my heart.
We didn't meet on this side of heaven.
But, one day- girlie- in God's perfect timing- we will be reunited.