You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.
-E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
She writes fiction very well. I write nonfiction not so well.
My Friend Cathe
But my friend Cathe is the one who called me up after reading a post one summer dayand said, “Abigail, there’s something wrong.”
I braced for the worst. Because one thing I love about Cathe is that she speaks the truth. She’s gracious and discrete. And direct and sincere.
So I prepared to hear, “You’re too long-winded, dear. Your message gets lost in your words.” Both true, still true.
But that’s not what I head. Instead Cathe said, “That post you just wrote was good. More people need should see this. I think you need a website.”
But my friend didn’t stop there. Cathe hooked me up with her website host, then took time from her writing with real deadlines to walk me through the nuts and bolts of my little website design.
Proverbs 27 says, Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. It’s true.
As we were loading in the van last night Cathe leaned in- not to talk to me but to my 15-year-old son. “Sam,” she started, “I have some advice about girls. Mind if I share?” We both stared at Cathe, rapt.
Find a girl with a cheerful disposition, she said. I like that. Because the moodier seem to grow moodier still. Sage advice, and kind.
You can see, Cathe doesn’t waste words. She uses them kindly and well.
The Sweetness of a Friend
It was Cathe who broke the ice after a month of estrangement from church, and asked, “Abigail, want to join the Thursday group?” I did. And with 3 week old Gabe in tow I joined the ladies in Cathe’s home over Cathe’s magic carrot nut muffins and spicy sweet tea.
Now 13 years later, I lead “the Thursday group.” It goes on with new faces and a handful of good old, including Cathe, though lately we meet via Zoom.
But after 20 years in our local life, as I write, Cathe is moving away. Last night, Jim, the boys and I got to help fill the U-Haul to its squid-ly brim. Totes, bins, washer, dryer and (Yes, Pat.) even the big brown sofa fit in.
Cathe is candid with herself too. I heard that last night. When she looked toward the sunset, maybe a little wistfully, and said,
“You know, Abigail, heaven is described as a city.”
Because Cathe is a country girl, even more than me. So as my friend makes her way to a big city in Minnesota today, I’m back in the country thanking God for her- a friend who goes and chokes me up when she moves.
My tears come, in part and probably a selfish part, because I realize that Cathe is a keeper of my story. She has a valuable perspective on my life that I don’t have. She sees me in a way I can’t.
Friends, the Keepers of Our Stories
While Cathe is a gifted weaver of made-up story threads, she took a few minutes away from loading bins last night to tell some of my own real story threads. Threads that can get all tangled up in my head.
Like the one about how we came for dinner almost 20 years ago. After dinner, her tween son who knew that Jim and had been married a while and still didn’t have kids, leaned in and asked,
“Hey mom, are you sure the Wallace’s know how?”
But Cathe also remembers the Sunday in November 2005 when we walked in to church holding our son, fresh from Korea. And how on a Sunday one year later, there was a collective, congregational gasp as my sister announced, “Abigail is expecting in June.”
Then, next June when Gabe was just a baby, Cathe broke silence and breached a tender subject. She broke that ice and welcomed me to the ladies’ study that met in her home.
Cathe has shared some of her precious story threads with me. They’re not mine to tell. But I do want to say, Cathe, that watching you endure with joy spurs me to do the same.
You Have Been My Friend
You know I’ll miss your real hugs and earnest counsel and practical kindness. And, as a keeper of my story, I will miss you because you know- and keep- my story so well.
Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for being a keeper of my story the last two decades. I’ll miss you on Sundays and Thursdays and I’m excited to see how God writes this next chapter in yours.
Cathe, you have been my friend. That, in itself, is a tremendous thing.
How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
-A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh