“I believe that once it lives, beauty never dies. I’ll never forget those eyes.” – Leisha by Josiah Gillespie (Written by Josiah Gillespie, 2006)
A lot of tragic things have been happening lately, in my personal life (as I talked about in my last post), in our city (3 shootings in 3 days), and in our country (Christina Grimmie’s murder and the shooting in Orlando). This has only added on to what I have already been feeling since March.
You see I experienced a great loss in my life almost ten years ago, and I relieved that experience by reading about it from the perspective of another back in March. Ever since then I have thought about it from time to time. I have the past (almost) 10 years anyway, but especially these past few months as I relived it in a way and God brought me to deeper healing with it.
For those of you who do not know, when I was 15-years-old one of my best friends, Leisha, ran out of this world and into the arms of our Savior.
I met Leisha when I was eleven or so through playing basketball for our homeschool team. I was not used to the talk the girls would share in the locker room that centered around appearance, talking about how they were too thin, too big, too tall, too short, etc. I was the biggest built girl on the team and I thought if they were talking about themselves that way, then surely they saw me as being fat and ugly. This lead to a dangerous way of thinking, if I ate very little or not at all, and worked hard at basketball then I might lose weight. If I lost weight then maybe I could become beautiful and maybe they would like me better. I ended up not eating at all for almost 2 weeks. I know people who have fasted longer, so in the grand scheme of things not that long or dangerous, except my thought process behind it was toxic. Technically by definition I had crossed the line into anorexia.
As I said this whole process did not last long, but Leisha noticed something. One day after practice she looked at me in the locker room and said, “You don’t even know you are beautiful do you”. This was a turning point for me. For one thing, Leisha met my human standard of beauty and for her to say that to me shocked me. For another Leisha was the first friend I had who ever said that too me. Sure my family had, adults at church, maybe friends’ parents. But it was different coming from a peer, it carried more weight. Leisha saw me when I felt invisible. When all I wanted was to be known by another human, for someone to prove they wanted to be my friend, not just because parents were pushing us together or because we grew up together so it was convenient. Leisha saw me and genuinely proved her love and friendship to me. That played a huge part in God showing me about my value and worth. He used Leisha and I cannot thank him, or her, enough for that.
I could talk about how losing her shook my world, how that wrecked me emotionally. I could talk about how I found out, how that night played out for me, how I remember every detail of that week with such clarity it is scary. However often when I talk of Leisha I share those things, and though I will probably be telling that story for many years to come as Father showed up and proved Himself worthy of praise during those dark days, I do not want to talk about that now.
Today I want to share a couple memories I have. The good times. The reasons that I was so blessed to know this amazing young woman for the four years that I did.
My favorite memory with Leisha was when we were hanging out before basketball practice one day. I am not sure how old we were at the time, 13 I think, but I honestly don’t remember. Leisha had an entourage of friends. I would hang out with all of them, or by myself, it would just depend. The others rarely asked me to tag along so some weeks I stayed to myself because I felt like I was intruding. This was one of those weeks. But Leisha left the others, came over, and sat next to me. She pulled out her MP3 player and handed me one of the earbuds and there we sat; just listening to Hawk Nelson and talking for a while before practice. That moment when she once again saw me when I felt invisible means more to me than I know how to express. I still think of her when I listen to that particular album (Letters To The President).
Another great memory that makes me laugh even still was another Tuesday night before basketball. Our group of friends were all sitting around playing spoons together, as we often did. Somehow one of the plastic spoons we were playing with snapped. I do not remember who the two people fighting over the spoon were, but I remember it breaking and Leisha, being her, somewhat dramatic, self decided that this was a travesty. This poor spoon gave its life for us to play a game. This poor spoon deserved a funeral. And with that Leisha picked up the spoon pieces and lead us all outside where she proceeded to dig a grave for the fallen spoon and gave it the burial it deserved. I actually checked the spot after Leisha’s death to find that the spoon was still there. I re-buried it, but I do not know if it is there anymore.
Nearly 10-years later and I have a heart-full of memories. I used to be so terrified that I would forget. That over time the memories would fade, and I would one day forget this amazing and beautiful (inside and out) friend who meant so much to me. When I was sixteen one of my friends informed me, “That’s impossible. She was your best friend you will never forget her. Ever. She helped to shape you into the woman you are and left a mark on you. You’ll never forget that”. She was right and I am so very glad I have these memories and more to remember and hold on to.
I still miss her. I miss her smile. I miss her laugh. I miss the face she would make when she realized she made a mistake. I miss the move she would do when she would travel on the court, which a few of us affectionally called “Lei’s Travel Dance”. I miss her singing the TailSpin theme song while we ran suicides at practice. I miss hearing our friend Kelsey shout, “light up like a Tinkerbell!” when Leisha would be at the foul line. I miss hearing her shout “Snicker-Poo!” when she would see me. I miss doing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” as a warm up with her before running laps.
A song that I have listened to a lot “From Where You Are” by Lifehouse (Written by Jade Wade, 2007) has a line that says “I miss the years that were erased” and that line never ceases to bring tears to my eyes because it is so true. Leisha and I made plans as many young friends do. We were only eight days apart so we had plans of doing a joint birthday party for our Sweet 16. We had plans for me to go on a retreat with her. We had plans to graduate together. We had plans to go on a missions trip together after we graduated high school. Of course at eleven to fifteen-years-old there were also those empty promises of “one day we will be in each other’s weddings” that all girls say to their friends at some point. But none of those plans ever came to pass.
I am left with all of these memories, and though losing her was hard, and I sometimes still dream of her and having a conversation with her, waking up wishing it could really happen, I have come a long long way in the healing of this. And now, now I can talk about her without instant tears. I can remember and cherish the good times. I can truly say that I was blessed to know her and that God has been glorified in my life showing me things and growing me through the friendship I had with her and through the loss of Leisha and the healing processes that followed.
“I miss the years that were erased, I miss the way the sunshine would light up your face. I miss all the little things. I never thought they’d mean everything to me. Yeah I miss you. And I wish you, were here.” – From Where You Are