I told her that there were very few people in this world for whom I would get out of bed at 3:30 a.m. She could hear the smile in my voice over the phone line. Of course I would come pray with her before her surgery. She's one of my dear friends. Has been for years. But when she introduced me to her surgeon as her pastor, I had to take a step back. Of all the pastors on staff at the Big Church, she wanted me to come.
I can still remember getting to know Anne on our first mission trip together. I was barely more than a visitor to the church when I signed up for the trip to Washington. There's another long story there, about how I left the Baptists, completely disgusted by the politics of religion. And how after a two year hiatus, I began church hopping, looking for a place of comfort. How the thoughts of pursuing ministry had been completely crushed.
But Anne welcomed me, a stranger among the mission trip groupies. We became fast friends. She persuaded me to join the church, so I could serve on the mission committee. She encouraged me to rethink my call to ministry. We shared our life stories and supported each other through the good, the bad, and all the times in between. She witnessed my ordination at the Big Church, my installation at the Little Church, and cheered me on from the sidelines.
About a month ago, we shared dinner together with two of our mission trip buddies at our favorite Italian restaurant. These semi-annual meals were a time for the four of us to catch up, laugh and reminisce. The only hint that anything was wrong was how painful it was for Anne to stand up after our dinner. She brushed it off, attributing to an aging body and a muscle strain.
A few days later, more symptoms developed, necessitating a trip to the hospital. The main cancer was in her bladder. It had spread to other organs, her thyroid, and the bones in her spine. The surgery last Friday was to remove what was left of a vertebra, protect the spinal cord, and insert some pins.
Her life, once measured in decades, is now taken a day at a time. Months, perhaps a year, maybe more. How quickly does one's perspective change in the face of blatant mortality. I do not really want to think of a future without her, so for now I won't. She wants me to cook her my famous award-winning white chili for when her family comes to town. It's the least I can do. For now.