I’ve been deep in contemplation. Very deep.
My childhood BFF, Beth, appears often in my dreams during periods of contemplation.
Upon waking from such dreams I wonder, what truth have I yet to find? There is a purpose here I’ve yet to see.
But, I’m getting closer to realizing it.
Beth was spiritual. She was a beloved child of God, and His light shone through her. However, Beth wasn’t religious in the same way I was. She had something even better than religion– she had the Spirit. No church, no errant Pastor, no congregation could impose their own ideas on Beth. Because Beth knew God. And that’s what this life is all about– finding truth and holiness in knowing Him.
This is something I wrote in 2012, several months after Beth’s passing the year before. I owe it to her to retell the ways her story intersected with mine. Beth showed me a face of Christ that no other human person could. Her spiritual purity still surpasses my own…
The sudden death of Elizabeth Jean Schultze devastated all who knew her. Including me.
I spoke at her Wisconsin Memorial service. I can’t remember exactly what I said… I tried to speak from the heart because that was Beth’s native language.
I do know I told the story of how Beth and I became friends. You see, Beth and I had shared a friendship since we were both in 1st Grade. We were homeschooled, and were involved in the same homeschooling group activities and events, but we didn’t truly become friends until the evening of my first public performance. We had all been rehearsing and working on a musical for months, but when it was curtain time I was paralyzed with stage fright. My poor mother… there was no consoling me, no end to my tears. Then, I noticed a gentle hand on my arm, I turned around to see 6 year old Beth with such compassion and concern in her blue-green eyes. I had to stop crying… It looked like my upset was causing this girl pain! I don’t remember what we said to each other, but I do remember that her gentle way of comforting me in my ridiculousness convinced me that I could snap out of it and go on. And we did.
After that night, we were inseparable for most of the next 10 years of our lives. So many of my fondest childhood memories involve days spent with Beth exploring the woods around her rural home, surrendering completely to our obsession with Star Trek the Next Generation (if I had only known at that tender age how uncool “trekkies” were), and playing duets for hours on end. Beth was an incredible violinist, I played piano, and together we learned how to make beautiful music together.
As we grew older, our lives led us down different paths. We should have remained best friends. Beth wanted it that way, but I am the reason we grew apart. With college in sight, I didn’t think Beth would be “cool” enough to hang out with anymore. So, we didn’t.
After several years of adulthood, I finally realized the mistake I had made. I went to work to track her down. When I found her (she lived thousands of miles away now) the very first thing I did was apologize for throwing away one of the best friendships I had ever known.
Beth could have been bitter and seething after my careless rejection of her. I bet I would have been bitter if the tables were turned. But that wasn’t Beth. Even though I could hear the hurt in her voice, Beth forgave me.
Beth and I both lived very different lives and were separated by thousands of miles, but we found a way to stay connected and our friendship rekindled. We made wild plans to crash Napa Valley for my next birthday, and dreamed about setting up solar-powered homesteads and moving our families off the grid.
Then Beth’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. Beth was kind of distant and tight-lipped about things, but I wanted to be there for her. When her father passed away unexpectedly two months later, it was clear that it was MY turn to be her gentle support. Over the next few months, Beth was dealt several blows and encountered several personal trials. We phoned, facebooked and texted each other often, with me trying to be the kind of friend she needed even though we lived so far apart. In our conversations, Beth always was concerned about me and MY family. That was just her way. Her world was literally falling apart but she would always take the time to ask me how my senile Mastiff was faring.
On July 6th, I got a phone call from Beth that went to voicemail. I still have that message on my phone. I tried to call her back a day later, to no avail, then saw an update on facebook that shook me to the core: Beth had suffered a brain aneurysm.
Like the tough cookie she was, Beth pulled through. We all knew she had a long road ahead of her, but she was discharged from the hospital by the end of July. Tragically, Beth passed away at her apartment, shortly there after. A second brain aneurysm, this time she hemorrhaged and died.
I spoke with Beth, for the very last time, while she was still at Stanford Medical in July. I cannot thank her Mother enough for calling me from the hospital and giving me a chance to tell Beth, one last time, how much I loved her. At this point, we all expected her to recover. But I wonder if Beth knew better… she made sure to tell me how much our friendship had meant to her and how much she loved me and my family. And, she asked how Tilly, my senile Mastiff, was faring. The call had to be kept short, because Beth was in so much pain. I didn’t realize it then, but fate had given us a poignant good-bye.
Everyone that knew Beth, spoke fondly of her. Everyone she met became her friend. She had no enemies, although that didn’t stop others from treating her cruelly. Beth’s forgiveness and compassion knew no bounds. How many people can you say that about?
Where is Beth now? In Heaven. No doubt in my mind. If you ever come to know someone like Beth, you’ll find you have to believe in an afterlife, because such a light doesn’t just dissolve into nothingness and decay. If someone has the gall to ask me one more time “was she saved?”, I’m certain a slew of profanities will tumble out of my mouth and fists will follow. Beth lived her relationship with God in her every day life, she didn’t need to keep up appearances in a church on Sundays. With love and compassion, Beth served as His hands and feet in this life in a way few of us ever will.
I fall deeper into sorrow with each friendship that falls hopelessly short of what Beth and I shared. I miss her so much. My soul aches to hear her voice again. Sometimes upon waking, I hear it, and I start thinking “If only…” and quickly dissolves into angry thoughts of “why?!”
Then Beth reminds me with “how”. How can I be that kind of friend? How can I be more like Beth? I’m trying, Hon.. But it was much easier when you were here to show me.