I told myself I wasn’t going to write about Michelle anymore. She’s gone. Many are devastated. But, like it or not, life goes on and I need to choose to go on with it. However, I must get this out before I can move on. Be patient with me.
Michelle was a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, prayer warrior, Church Administrator, Music Minister. She meant so much to so many people. But, right now, none of that matters to me. What matters to me is this….she was my friend. And this is my tribute to her.
My first experience with Michelle – it wasn’t a meeting – was when I was invited to a “concert” joining two church choirs, one of which was Harvest Church. The choir loft was packed and they sounded good. As the first choir director was in front of them, leading them through music I didn’t know, I was enjoying it. Then. This other choir director got up there. A woman. I was no longer enjoying the music, I was consumed by it. It felt as if I couldn’t breathe. My entire being was being absorbed by what I was hearing. (I now know that was the Holy Spirit moving.) I looked at the dear husband and said, “wherever she is the choir director is the church we’re supposed to go to.” And so it began.
We attended the church for over a year before we joined. By then, I was expecting a baby and had a sick husband. I was shy and withdrawn. Michelle was larger than life and often made a point of speaking to me and….*gasp*….hugging me. I did not like to be hugged. But, more about that later.
Fast forward several years. Our attendance had been spotty. The church location had changed. They were trying new things. One of those new things was a women’s retreat. My first thought was, “I should go.” I had received the baptism of the Holy Ghost on my own in my living room and was hungry for more. But, I wasn’t sure I was ready to go on something as intimate as a retreat. God had other plans. I got a message to call Michelle at the church. I fretted. What on earth could she possible want? Finally, pushing fear aside, I called. She informed me that God had laid it on her heart that I needed to be at the retreat. She shot down every excuse I could come up with. I went home and talked to Keith. He agreed I should go. Ugh. That was my last hope. I was going.
The women’s retreat was life changing. On the day we left, I rode in the van Michelle was driving – in the back because I was too timid to tell anyone that I got carsick. It was quickly discovered, as I turned green, and I got moved up front. Michelle started singing oldies and I joined her. The tiny beginning of a friendship. At the retreat, God impressed upon me that it wasn’t normal for me not to like being hugged and I needed to deal with it. I went to one of the leaders and told her. She sat me down to pray for me and called Michelle over. Michelle prayed, told me what God had revealed, prayed some more…then walked me around and made me hug everyone we came in contact with! My healing began….as did a lifelong friendship.
Michelle took me under her wing and began pouring into me. She was my friend, yes, but so much more! She was my mentor, encourager, confidante, cheerleader, champion, accountability partner. She taught me how to pray, worship, how to be a godly woman, how to be a friend…and how to hug! I think, though, the most important thing she taught me was how to love and how to say “I love you.” For over a decade, she was the most influential person in my life. She helped me find my wings. I loved her more than I knew you could love someone you weren’t related to or married to. She was, in many ways, my Naomi. She truly taught me how to love her God and He became my God and I’m forever thankful.
Sadly, seasons change. And our season at Harvest was over. Many didn’t understand. We didn’t understand. But, we had learned to hear God’s voice and He was telling us, “move.” My heart was broken. Michelle’s heart was broken. Our friendship couldn’t be as it was. The physical distance became nothing compared to the emotional distance. That was the first time I mourned her.
As it has a way, time healed much of the pain. God had made it clear why we had to move on. I had no regrets. But, I still had a Michelle-sized hole in my heart. God worked on that too. We didn’t spend time together. We weren’t in each others daily lives. But, we had a love between us that time and space couldn’t break. The last time I texted her, it was to tell her I was singing to myself and wished it was her singing. I received just one line of the song on my phone. I will treasure that snippet of her voice for always.
I’m certain I’m not the only one, but I’m battling the what if’s. What if I had known that would be my last text? What if I had known she was leaving us soon? Well….I know she knew I loved her. And I know she loved me. But, I would have told her again. I would have made sure she understood what she had done for me. I would have hugged her tight and thanked God for her one last time. I didn’t get that chance.
So. What now? I have decided that the best thing I can do to honor her memory is to live like she did….loving the Lord with everything in me. I don’t sing. Well, I do, but nobody wants to hear it! My gifts are listening, loving, encouraging and writing. So, that is what I’ll do. I’ll do it for God’s glory and in Michelle’s memory.
I loved her. No….I love her. Because we have the assurance that I will see her again. It isn’t goodbye, it’s so long for now.
Save me a seat Michelle! I’ll be there soon enough! I love you!
Be blessed and tell someone you love them. Do it today.