You don’t recognize the impact a person has until they’re taken away from you.
At 5:30 a.m on Wednesday, Feb. 13, my lifelong friend, Corinn, was in a car wreck. Four days later, her family disconnected her from life support.
When I was told the news by a close family friend, the memories of our childhood together flooded my entire being. We shoved each other down the torn slip-and-slide on the dead grass in my backyard. We celebrated our agonizing hours of nervousness after our piano recitals with glorious Fuddrucker burgers and average shakes. And when distance tore us apart, our precious moments together meant staying up all night talking about how life was hard but how God was good. These memories crashed into my heart in an instant.
But they only resurfaced because Corinn was leaving me.
It’s easy to live in this kind of comfort when we are still surrounded by the people we love the most. We experience moments with them — the sweetest ones. We laugh with these people, but we cry with them too. We learn from these people — how to be kind, how to love hard, how to persevere — but then we don’t tell them.
It seems almost cyclical sometimes. We live for the next moment, for the memories that we hope to make later. These experiences are profound, and whether we realize it or not, they impact the person we become. And yet, we don’t reminisce on these things when life is good. These memory-makers live alongside us and we blindly walk alongside them toward the “next best thing.” We keep going, “living in the moment,” or so we’d like to think.
Time passes, but we forget that people do too. It is in this moment that we look to our right and left, and finally reminisce on the past memories we experienced that we immediately brushed off right after the memory was over. Thank God that these memories are buried in our minds, somewhere.
When I drove to the hospital to see my family friends and say goodbye to Corinn, I resolved to cherish the moment in the moment itself.
No one is ever prepared for a hospital waiting room — probably because we never plan to be there. Walking in, Isaac and Josh, Corinn’s brothers, stood up and hugged me hard. Music was playing softly, little kids were laughing and crawling on the ground, unaware of the reason they were there.
I walked down the hallway a little more, to another waiting room overflowing with more family and friends. Joy drenched every person in that room. I had walked into a miracle.
I relished the moment when I sang with her younger sister, AJ, as she plucked the ukulele strings to Corinn’s favorite song. Tears stung my eyes as we all sang “Happy Birthday” to her younger brother —grieving people joyously lifted their voices to celebrate a new year of life of the brother who only wished to celebrate the restoration of Corinn’s brain. My heart dropped in shock as her oldest sister responded to my “How are you?” with a joyous, “I have the peace that surpasses all understanding!” And when I was wrapped in her mother’s embrace, I forsook any comforting words as she whispered, “Habibi, above all else, pray that God would be glorified in this.”
And there were moments when I laughed hard. Trying on pig noses that came in one of the many care packages, Hammie, Corinn’s eight year old brother and I giggled as we woke the room with a stifled “oink, oink.”
Then it was time to say goodbye, or “see you soon,” as I’d rather say.
Taking my hand, Hammie led me into Corinn’s room and clutched me tight, as if my grief was greater than his. The steady beeping sounds, the peculiar warmth that came from the other people clouding the room, the sight of Corinn, the impact of the crash inscribed on her entire being. The memories of our friendship hit me all the more.
With her blistered, calloused hands lying motionless on the bed, Hammie whispered to me, “You can touch them, Sofia. Don’t worry. They don’t hurt.”
I rubbed my hand quickly against hers, utterly lifeless but only a mere shell of my friend’s beautiful soul. As we walked out of the room, Hammie patted my back and smiled.
“Sofia, just imagine how much better her skin is in heaven. It’s 30 times better than this,” he said.
Hammie lived in this moment with me. Instead of refusing to walk into the dreaded room, he embraced the moment with boldness and invited me to share in the precious opportunity to touch Corinn for one last time. In the very act of touching his dying sister’s hands, he reminisced on who she was, her vibrant self, but also looked ahead to her future restoration.
We often fail to reminisce on our memories and savor our friends when we are actually with them. Memories are meant to be shared — and not just at the memorial service of our loved one. It is a beautiful thing to look back fondly on the memories when you are still with the person you live each day with. Because when we do this, those people live cherished. Our ongoing gratefulness paints a vibrant picture of active love; we soak people in it.
Our lives suddenly become an ongoing celebration of the “thens” with the “nows” of the present, as we press onward toward the “next.” The memories walk with us, instead of being left behind for us to run back and grasp later when it seems all too late.
So here’s to Corinn — a sister who chose to be a tapestry magnificently woven by Christ. A friend who screamed with excitement when you shared your life’s joys and buried her head in her hands when the boy you had a crush on hurt you. A songbird who lifted her voice with the sole purpose of lifting up others. An ambitious leader, who surrendered her whole life to Christ living with nothing to lose, nothing to prove, and nothing to gain.
Here’s to you, Corinn, for living for this day — and that day — the day that has arrived so suddenly, but the day when you’ve bolted running into our Abba’s arms.
I just wish I told you these things before you were gone.