When I look at this picture now, I see everything that came after for us both. But back then, it was as the Carpenter's song said, a day of "white lace and promises." Soon after, my brand new husband would be gone from this earth, leaving a chasm so deep I didn't know how I would ever get over it. But God brought me through that. Brought us all through that.
As Heather got older, my Mom kept in touch.....saw her at the store every now and then. She went through that "all in black" stage when she hit her teens. Fell in with the wrong crowd as they say. We heard she was having some hard times, some struggles. And then she was lost to us. We heard snatches of things here and there from her Aunt, none of the news very good. Her Aunt would tell us to pray, so that is what we did.
Her Dad died, and after that it seemed we didn't hear anything at all for a very long time. She was lost to us, and I am sure she would agree, lost to herself for those many years. My Mom worried and prayed, and I am sure her own Mom did too.
Mom persisted through the years, kept checking up, kept praying that some day the news would be good. And one day it was......It seemed that Heather had resurfaced. She had come out the other side of some hard times. She got away from some influences that were better left behind. She got a good job and kept it.
She was baptised into new life in the Puget Sound.
And what a joyous time it was, when she and Mom met again that first time after so long. She said, "I got my girl back...." I can only imagine the tears of joy that were shed that day. God closed a gap for them on all those missing years.
I was thrilled at the news, and though I had contacted her on Facebook, I still hadn't seen her in person.When I heard she was going to be in Phoenix, I knew there was no way I could let her go back home without seeing her, especially when I found out her Mom was with her.
And as I got ready, I was so nervous. I fussed about what to wear. I worried what she'd think of me now, no longer young, like she remembered me. And when did my teeth get so yellow? How blotchy my skin was. I critiqued myself before the mirror. Maybe we have nothing in common, I thought. Maybe she won't even like me.......
As we waited in the lobby for her to come down, I paced. I chatted nervously with Elaine, who had last seen Heather the same time as me, around 1988 or 89. I saw her face change as she looked at something behind me, and suddenly I felt two hands covering my eyes, and a warm embrace from behind.
And all of a sudden, those years fell away, and so did all my worries. As I looked in her eyes, I saw love shining out. Our Heather was back.
We talked and laughed for 5 hours straight, the four of us. Her Mom and Elaine found they had some things in common, they compared notes on caretaking, since her husband is on the same medications as Elaine's Mom for Dementia. I could see the stress, the weight of it in her eyes.
When we went to leave at the end of the night, Heather called me "Sis" and picked me up like I was the kid, I realized again, that family doesn't neccesarily have to mean blood.
What it does mean is love unconditional no matter what. For better and for worse.
Friends, family and prayer holds us over to the better parts of life. Life is a combo plate, no doubt about it. With its own mixture of happy and sad, sprinkled with tears of laughter and sorrow. When I looked at the four of us on Tuesday I saw everything we have gone through, all of us. I saw some strong women, and an even stronger God.
All these years I have carried a memory of a little girl, reading out loud from a book my Mom used to read to her as they sat close, about how God's love will always find you. "Even if I sank deep, deep to the bottom of the ocean, Your love would find me." It did Heather, it did.
It found us all. When God weaves a story, the ending is always happy.
A special thanks to my Mom who never gave up on bringing Heather back into our circle of life and to Heather's Mom for inviting us back in.