When I was younger and had more free time, before kids and before Chris (which seems like a lifetime ago and just yesterday at the same time), I was a youth leader for the middle school and high school groups at my church. Summers were spent traveling to Mexico, Missouri, Tennessee, or South Carolina, visiting amusement parks, sleeping in tents or freezing cold cabins, attending Christ in Youth conferences, Know Sweat work weeks, rafting down rivers, painting houses, and staying up all night with fellow chaperones. Just typing that verb-filled sentences makes me yearn for that carefree time. When college breaks were spent driving a rented minivan through the mountains in the middle of the night or skiing with high schoolers.
It was during that time that I reconnected with Chris and would eventually fall in love with him. It was during that time that I met one of my favorite people, Ashley, who is still a dear friend. It was during that time, I met kids that are now no longer kids, who are getting married and having babies, who have graduated from college and have real, big kid jobs. Who still know the stories of my early twenty's. Of my addictions, of my struggles and fears, because I was able to share myself, all of myself with them, and show them this unending love I know only because of Jesus.
Looking back, there's almost a magical quality to that part of my life. Those people, those places, those experiences will stay with me for the rest of my life. I know that God put me there, during that specific time, to save me from myself, from what I was becoming. And being able to see that now, all these years later, knocks the breath out of me.
One person that was there, in the shadows, always smiling, always organized, always positive, was Lora. She traveled with us when she could, but even when she couldn't load the bus for our next great adventure, she was there waving from the parking lot. She was there loving a kid that nobody else knew what to do with. She was there, always.
Last week, she passed away unexpectedly. And on Friday we had to say goodbye to her. That was rougher than I ever imagined.
It was Lora who first commented on a scrawny kid's beautiful smile and how it made her melt every time she saw it. She had such a beautiful way of looking at people, of seeing past first appearances, and just knowing them. Maybe it was because she wore her struggle on the outside, her weight being the first thing that people saw, so that she just knew how to look at someone differently. But that smile she commented on was the first time I looked at my future-husband with anything more than a passing glance.
I have Lora to thank for a lot of things during that period of my life, but the role she played in the beginning of my relationship with Chris is the biggest.
I don't think she ever knew the power her observation had. I wish I would have thought to tell her.
Lora, until we meet again, thanks.