There’s this shovel in my office with a post-it note on it. I think it’s probably an ash-shovel for a fireplace. Or something like that because it’s just shy of two feet long. And no, I did not just dig in my desk drawer for a measuring tape so I could walk across the room and measure it because I’m gifted enough in measurement to guess that it was less than two feet long. Twenty inches, to be exact.
But really, it’s a shit shovel.
Jill bought it for me. From Goodwill, I’m sure. It was her favorite store. Or maybe a yard sale. She loved those, too. As a matter of fact, on October 10, 1999 she and I went to eleventy-thousand-three-hundred-twenty-five-million yard sales during the day and that night, I went into labor with Zane. She was pretty proud of herself for inducing my labor ten days early and before the doctor’s appointment to schedule and inducement.
Jill wrote the note to Phil because she knew if she wasn’t here to keep me in line, someone would have to do it. I think she probably picked the right person for the job. There aren’t too many people who can put up with me.
I can’t wrap this head of mine around the fact that Jill’s been gone two years already.
I mean, she still talks to me in my head. I still find little notes and gifts from her all over in my stuff. She was so good at being a friend. She knew every little thing about me and she constantly thought of me. I know this because one of the other things she was really good at was sending boxes of ‘prises. (Surprises. ‘prises. Prizes.) She’d fill a box with recipes cut out of magazines and newspapers, funny articles, comics, post-it notes, and little gifts that mean absolutely NOTHING to anyone but her and I. She paid attention to the details.
I said that this year I wanted to make more time for the people that are still here. I want to pay attention to the details. I want to bless someone by thinking of them. I can’t be Jill, but I can emulate the way she loved. I can pay attention to my friends and give them my time and my heart and things with secret meanings.
Like my Jim mug.
I might tell you the Jim story one day.
* * *
In memory of Jill.
It was very hard for me to hit “publish” on this one.
* * *
In October of 1999, Zane was born. Phil was driving our semi over the road and he was home one day out of every thirty. That year, Jill and I spent New Year’s Eve together afraid for Y2K. We survived.
In 2000, we filed bankruptcy on that semi and moved back to Indiana and lived with my parents for a short time. Phil found a driving in job in Chicago and he was home two days out of every seven.
In 2001, 9/11 happened and I was scared for our lives. I’d never, ever heard it so quiet outside as when all planes were grounded. That month, we found a duplex to rent, Zane turned 2, potty-trained and I was still trying to decide if I was a good mom or not.
In 2002…Phil got a local job hauling fuel and was home EVERY night.
In 2003, Phil and I bought the Knox house. I started attending a church for the first time since I was let down by a different church back in 1992.
In 2004, doctors thought Phil had cancer. He didn’t. He did, however, punch a wall and break his hand and have to have pins put in.
In 2005, I was reading my Bible daily, active in Women’s ministry (and Phil in men’s ministry) and I was really getting to know God. Jill told me she had breast cancer and had already been battling it for a year. She’d already had a mastectomy and chemo and radiation. She made me get a breast exam. And I think they thought I had cancer. I then had an ultra sound. Then a mammogram (and platypus poop.) Then I had to see a surgeon. He told me I didn’t have breast cancer.
In 2006, I was called to write. “Write.” (I noticed I posted that on 12/02/06. Wonder if that has anything to do with 12:26?) That year, I also lost my Uncle Ed. I’m not sure there’s ever been a time when I felt as close to God. And that’s also the year my church gave me a wake up call–lying about me, accusing me of ridiculous things, and leaving me alone during a time of huge, monumental need. Phil thought he was having a heart attack. Our fridge broke. Phil lost his job. Phil had double hernia surgery. We almost lost our house. 2006 was probably the hardest year of my life. I felt so alone that year. And God taught me more about His love than I could’ve ever expected.
In 2007, my thyroid completely shut down and I’ve been trying to get my brain (and my body and my life) back ever since. It’s also the year I was asked to be on the editing team at The Midnight Diner.
In 2008, I lost my best friend, Jill in January. She might have survived Y2K, but she did not survive breast cancer. And then my grandma passed away in September. I was asked to be Editor-in-chief of The Midnight Diner.
In 2009, We were taken on a trip of a lifetime to Key West and Marco Island, Florida in March. Phil quit truck driving altogether! He started working as property manager for a local retreat center. We were blessed with a grandson in April. Around May, I finally started feeling like myself again with the help of some replacement thyroid hormone. We moved in June and I’ve been trying to figure out what life is now that Phil’s home all day, every day and now that everything has changed.
* * *
I started this post with the intention of talking about how I feel separated from God right now. I mean, I know He’s there, He just feels distant to me and I remember hearing people talk about feeling this way and I distinctly remember thinking, “I will NEVER feel that way. I will always feel as close to God as I do at this very moment.”
I was going to talk about this new Bible I got, The Books of the Bible–with no verse references–and how I was going to start reading that for the New Year.
But I got caught up in looking at the way things got so ugly during the time I was closest to God. I remember what I went through and the lessons I learned after I did Beth Moore’s Believing God study. Things I haven’t found the courage to write about.
And though God says, “Do not be afraid.”
I am afraid.
I’m afraid that if I get close to Him again, something worse will happen. And I don’t know how to let go of that fear.
I know I’m the one keeping the distance from God.
I said it.
They’re pressed in many books I have no intention of ever discarding. Given to me on such a regular basis, I took for granted their rarity.
She’d tip-toe through my yard as if walking a tight-rope, even though the yard was nothing but weeds and rocks. She’d bend in half like a ballerina and go right to them, they must have been whispering her name.
She’s been gone almost fifteen months now, but I still see her petite frame walking towards me, her small arm extended, her thin hand bent slightly, and between her long fingers–another four leaf clover for me, “Look! A ‘prise!” she’d sing. Never a “suprise” always a ‘prise. Always.
The odds of finding a 4-Leaf clover is estimated at 10,000 to 1.
And the odds of having such a best friend? There aren’t enough stars in the sky. Love you Jill
Jill‘s been gone one year today.
The only reason the pickled watermelon rind she sent Phil last year isn’t in there any longer is because while we were out of town one weekend, our power went out for a few days and when we returned, we had to throw everything away. I held it in my hand, hesitating. I thought about emptying the contents and keeping the jar. Then I thought Jill’d think I was stupid, so I threw it away.
The only reason the video of her that was recorded on my phone just a few days before she died isn’t there any longer is because my phone broke and the video couldn’t be recovered. It’s the same reason her phone number isn’t programmed in there, too.
Jill’s blog is still here. I pretty much have the few entries she posted memorized.
Her email address is still in my contacts. Sometimes, I want to email her and tell her things.
She’s still so much a part of my life. Pink ribbons don’t give me some feeling of achievement. They don’t make me feel like I’m doing something or saying something or raising awareness for something. The make me hate breast cancer and death and they make me miss Jill. I hate those freaking pink ribbons. There. I said it.
I had a weird dream this morning, I know one part of it was her trying to make me laugh. We have a private little joke about black licorice.