Some days it seems like the veil to another world, one that is very real but unseen, gets lifted, just for a breath or two…
I met her by seeing her—she paced the streets and didn’t talk, or look at me, or really anyone. I assumed it was drugs. One day, we had some supplies we keep locked up in our storage unit out for an event, and she tried to steal them. I asked her not to steal and please leave, and she pulled out a metal bar, threatening me. In that moment, it clicked . . . I am supposed to pray for her.
I learned the lesson of prayer for those that seem the most “far gone” through my friend Julie who, the first time I met her, stole a bag of shoes and cussed me out..
So, like Julie, who taught me to pray for those I would normally write off, I prayed for this new woman, too. I prayed and prayed. I would observe her movements, eyes glazed, skinny as a rail, and I would ask God to help her. I couldn’t help, and in truth, I couldn’t imagine how help could come. It seemed impossible.
A month ago, I learned she had been hit by a car. I was saddened but felt there was nothing I could do. Then one Thursday two weeks later, she came to my mind and I asked about her again. Someone told me she had died. I texted a friend who works in the area to confirm this was true, and he knew her last name and what hospital she was in. He seemed to believe she was still alive.
I needed to try to find her. But it didn’t make sense. Our only real interaction had been threatening, so why would I try to track her down?
As I drove to the hospital, I talked with myself, “Why am I going? Even if I see her, she may not remember me, and if she remembers me, she probably doesn’t like me.” I got to her floor and walked past the desk to her room. I took a deep breath and walked in. Emptiness. Oh no, I am too late, I thought.
I went to the front desk to ask where she was, fully expecting them to say she had passed away. The guy at the desk asked me, “Who are you? Are you family?”
“No, just someone who knows her and cares.”
He looked skeptical, but said, “She was taken away today. It looks like they took her to the Meadows (a rehabilitation facility).”
“No way!” I almost shouted. “I already go there every week to see my friend Carl. I can’t believe she’s there.” And then I realized the guy was still in front of me, so I had to explain my enthusiasm with “I know that doesn’t mean much to you but it’s amazing to me.”
My friend was at the very place I already go every single week. I could hardly believe it. I headed straight there, praying all the way, feeling the love of a God who is so much bigger than me or my wildest dreams. Who loves to involve us in the process of healing and restoration, even when it is slow and painful.
Driving there felt like touching heaven, yet I still felt fear walking into that facility and up to her room. I got to her room but she wasn’t there. I was about to ask a nurse where she might be when who rolled around the corner but my friend.
“Hi!” I said.
“Hello,” she responded as she wheeled towards me.
“I don’t know if you remember me, but I am Elisabeth and I work in the neighborhood where you live.”
“Oh, hi Elisabeth,” she said.
“I just wanted to come to see you and find out how you are doing.”
“I’m doing pretty good,” she replied. And then, she rolled on as I walked behind, and the next words out of her mouth stunned me: “I am ready to stop drugs.”
I stopped dead in my tracks. Before me sat the woman whom I had been holding in my heart for months, holding against hope, and almost the first words out of her mouth on a day I had never planned to see her, she tells me the very thing for which I had been praying.
I would come to find out my prayers had joined in a chorus of her mother and two children whom she loves but from whom her addiction left her disconnected. For many, many years.
New life against hope.
We ended up outside on the patio so she could smoke a cigarette. She had told me about her family earlier, so I told her about mine. “I have a two-year-old son named John,” I shared.
In that moment, she looked right at me, “I have never really had friends. You know, I kind of had them in high school, I guess, but I have never really had a friend. I would like to be your friend; will you be mine?”
"Yes," I replied, "being your friend would be my great delight."