Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Friend, Janet

When my daughter was a baby, she cried. A lot. She slid out of me crying and for almost the entire first year of her life, if the child was not eating or sleeping, she was crying. She cried in the car, the grocery store, the bathtub, and church. I would have missed an entire year of sermons if not for friends who, obviously seeing how weary I was of the crying, offered to walk my daughter around and out of earshot of the congregation on Sunday mornings.

One particular friend, Janet, encouraged me to relax. Her blunt and easy manner, as she held my screaming daughter, was hard not to be attracted to. She told me more than once, “Kristi, if I did it with triplets, you can do this.” I believed her and I survived.

Later, as my daughter turned into a toddler, we attended a weekly Bible study together. My often pointed and unusual questions concerning the nature of God were trumped only by Janet. How refreshing it was to be in a room with someone who spoke her mind more than I did. What a relief it was to hear a woman I respected and admired admit, “I asked God for a baby and he had the nerve to give me three. AT ONCE.” Perhaps my sometimes ambivalent feelings about motherhood were normal after all. As I listened to Janet’s honesty, I relaxed and survived my children’s preschool years.

One Thursday morning, Janet brought my three-year-old a pair of pink cowboy boots. My daughter wore them everyday for months. Wore them with pajamas, shorts, dresses, and tutus. Janet enjoyed this very much. I have many pictures of my daughter in what have become known in my mind as the “Janet boots.” One day when my daughter becomes a mom herself, I’ll tell her stories about how Janet was a mentor-mom to me. How Janet helped me survive her screaming and how much she enjoyed those pink boots.

Later, when Janet’s triplets were about to leave for college, Janet called me late one evening. This was unusual because we didn’t have a phone call kind of relationship. She was calling because her daughter was leaving to attend college where my younger brother was attending law school. She wanted to know if my brother would mind being a kind of emergency contact in Houston, if her daughter were to need anything.

After assuring her my brother would be more than happy to provide help to her daughter if needed, we talked for a long time. Her nest was emptying all at once. All three children leaving home at the same time. She encouraged me to enjoy my children while they were at home. She knew how fast they would grow. I listened, relaxed a bit more, and have happily transitioned into being the mom of two elementary schoolers.

It’s a sunny day here in Dallas. I cannot see a single cloud in the sky. The temperature is seventy-five degrees. It would be an otherwise beautiful day, if not for one detail. You see, my friend Janet died just after lunch today. She died after fighting a long battle with breast cancer. The last time I saw her, before she eventually moved into Hospice care, I hugged her and said, “How are you?” She said, “I’m doing okay. We have it all planned out. I’ve told Jim and the kids where I want my ashes spread.” I looked at her thoughtfully and said, “Janet, you know the whole cremation thing doesn’t work for me, right? You know I really need a body to say goodbye to.” She laughed and said, “Well, too bad. I’m doing this my way.” I would have expected nothing less.

Thank you, Janet. Thank you for your kindness, your honestly, and for being my friend. I’m a better mother for having known you. I will miss you, but carry you with me always.

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