5 Things Sarah Taught Me

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My friend, Sarah’s birthday is tomorrow. We met about 20 years ago when we were embarking on a great adventure — a year’s study abroad, in France. We walked all over Bordeaux and the outlying areas together, talking about everything under the sun.

Later on we both majored in French Literature, became high school teachers, married, and had kids. Sarah was tall and thin, funny and witty.

She was brilliant, I think. I thought I knew it all, but she really did. Sarah taught me many things.

1. Keep your eyes straight ahead.

For some reason exhibitionists and flashers singled Sarah out. It was almost a daily occurrence that she might cross paths with someone — in broad daylight — who was sharing too much.

It became a habit then, when we were together, to keep my eyes on the road and not be distracted by the foolish or inappropriate things others might be doing. It bodes well in life as well as on foreign streets.

2. Be brave.

Sarah and I kept in touch about once a year. But, it was that kind of friendship where you could easily pick up where you left off and no one felt guilty for the passage of time.

Over those years I would hear her recount her mom’s struggle with lymphoma and how Sarah birthed her first baby while her mother fought desperately to live to see her granddaughter, just a few floors away. Sarah and her husband ended up taking their baby home to her parents’ house so that her mom could walk through to the end and yet share in the baby’s homecoming. In some ways, that was laughing at the days to come.

A few years later, Sarah’s home burned down. And she and her husband worked to rebuild all that they had lost. She faced such tragedy, yet she was perseverent.

3. Laugh at yourself.

Sarah had a gift for storytelling, a true gift. She could make me laugh so hard as she told me her latest tales of woe.

Though she had every reason to complain at times, she could still laugh and make others giggle and cry with her. I always wanted her to write a book. It truly would have been the great American novel.

4. Ice cream and chocolate are meant to be explored — with gusto.

In Bordeaux, Sarah could rattle off every kind of candy bar they sold in continental Europe. I was stunned that she had had the time, inclination, and francs to test them all out. But, she had. And she knew what was good. She knew ice cream and sweets like nobody’s business, which made her an even more fun companion to have.

5. Live life to the fullest.

Sarah died six years ago in an automobile accident. She left behind two children who were 2 and 4 at the time. I found out a month or two later. Her sister was cleaning out her car and found my latest baby announcement. Knowing Sarah, she held onto it, though it had been almost a year since I sent it, because she was going to call. She always did. She was a steadfast friend. A much better friend than I was, in many ways.

That day when Sarah loaded her kids in the car was probably like any other day. There was nothing unique about it, except in how it ended.

I am reminded: the days are long, but life is short. I still weep over the loss of her friendship, over the loss of her life, her dreams, her hopes for her children. Their loss is so much greater than mine.

But what can I do?

I can keep my eyes on the journey ahead of me. I can be brave when times are hard. I can laugh at myself. I can eat ice cream and chocolate because they are meant to be enjoyed.

And I can live life to the fullest.

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  1. Nicely written. Look us up maybe Facebook ? I couldn’t find you there.
    Sarah’s husband.

    1. Hey Stan! Yeah, Bryan and I don’t do Facebook, but I’m so glad that Alyssa shared the post with you. I have thought of you all and Sarah so often over the years. Big hugs to you and the kids!

  2. You must post a honor to Sarah maybe every year? I remember seeing a post like this last year maybe? Anyways I do appreciate the yearly reminder to love our friends and learn from them and hold on tight because tomorrow is never promised.

    1. This is actually a post from last year. But, I linked to it on Facebook today in honor of Sarah. I miss her. πŸ™

  3. What a sweet tribute! I lost my best friend (also a Sarah) 2 years ago – unexpectedly. She left behind an 8 year old. It’s tough – but again, you are right – a reminder to live life to the fullest.

  4. Thank you for sharing a little bit of your Sarah with us. I lost one of my best friends in a car accident 5 years ago this month, so I can understand a small part of how it feels to lose someone so dear to you. I really identify with number 5 – my friend was someone who was so uninhibited – in a great way! – she would never let fear stop her from trying something new or interesting and she had so many close friends because she would always devote herself fully to them. That’s a lesson I’m still learning. I thank God for the time that we did get to spend with her, even though it was so short.

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll say a prayer for you and Sarah’s family, because even after years go by, I know the loss stays with us. Thank you for the reminder to remember what we learned from those who are no longer with us. I lost a friend and classmate about a year ago and am grateful that, as he lived, he reminded me to honor my country and my family, to seek God’s will in my life, and to smile at strangers. He may be gone, but his values do live on. πŸ™‚

  6. I was just crying because I was thinking about my Brother , my only sibling at age 39 to cystic fibrosis, he passed away in oct of 2010. I was reading something someone had left on his guest book on Legacy.com. This is what they said:

    “You can’t live a perfect day without helping someone who will never be able to repay you.” YOU had alot of perfect days. From a friend of your father’s.

    This had me in tears. then I thought about my 16 yr old that was a passenger in a totalled pickup truck on 2-12 and she lived. If she had not had her seat belt on I was told she would have died. Then I read your words to your friend and cried again.
    I loved reading about her. We never know what the day holds but if we just do our best to help those around us, we make that difference don’t we?

  7. Jessica, thank you for sharing this story about Sarah and your friendship; and what you have learned from her. It has has encouraged me to appreciate my relationships more than I show (especially with my own family). Thank you again for your reminder to treasure the gifts of our relationships – and to enjoy the time we have together.

  8. By inspiring us readers with this story, you have brought honor to your friend’s memory. Never underestimate your ability to have an impact on others.

  9. Wow…so sad to hear about the loss of such a great friend. But thanks for the reminders of living life to the fullest.

  10. I am so sorry about the tragic death of your friend. You were lucky to have had such a wonderful friendship with her. My heart goes out to you. I too remember loved ones on their birthday. Today is also the birthday of my beloved dog, Oreo.
    God bless, Kathy in Illinois

  11. Thank for sharing your story and your friend. I always need a good cry. Please make sure you send this to her children who will not know these things. They will appreciate them.

  12. Another lesson taught by Sarah:

    Lord, make me know the shortness of life
    So I may gain wisdom of heart. Psalm 90

  13. Wow! What a beautiful friendship. But you really should warn us when you’re going to make us cry. πŸ˜‰ Gonna hug my little ones a little longer today for sure.

  14. What a beautifully written story Jessica. So sad that I cried, but so many important things to remember.