Friendship is something that happens quite accidentally. We can look for friends, try to be a friend, and be surrounded by friendly people, but there is something unplanned that leads to true friendship. If we are lucky enough to have a best friend, “one who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), then we are doubly blessed! My relationship with Tammie began in high school.
High school is filled with young people trying to find their way to fit in. There are the popular ones, the brainy ones, the quiet ones, the kind ones, and the funny ones. I couldn’t make myself popular, but I could be helpful! Being helpful is symbiotic, benefiting both the giver and the receiver. Getting something obviously helps the receiver, but the giver feels important and needed. This became my place in high school, being helpful! I picked up dropped papers, opened doors, straightened desks, and so on. I was not popular but I had my place!
When Tammie arrived she was in a cast from neck to waist as a result of a recent surgery. I saw a need and was soon running defense for Tammie as she maneuvered from class to class, carrying her books and making sure she made it without being hurt in the bustling hallways. She was needy and I was helpful. We were both friendly but I was mainly fulfilling my role.
Our relationship grew to include activities outside of school and our roles continued unchanged for a while. I remained the helper, modeler, and leader giving advice, support, and transportation. Tammie was younger, less secure, and, because of her physical needs, more sheltered. She remained the receiver.
Time passed. Each of us married, the other at our side. We moved away and back and started families. Memories were built through letters and face-to-face. We became equals. I still gave, but Tammie was able to give back. She gave devotion, kindness, unwavering love and steadiness. She dealt with the constant limitations from spina bifida with humor and acceptance. Tammie started to give to me more than I gave to her.
Finally the spina bifida began to take its toll and she started declining more rapidly. Her grace and humor continued through surgeries, strained relationships, and physical deterioration. We talked on the phone nearly daily since I once again moved away. I traveled to visit several times a year. Near the end, Tammie struggled to carry on, but was tired and ready to go; ready to be whole again with her Savior. It was so hard to let go.
Tammie ended up giving back to those of us who knew and loved her in spades! We witnessed her life with all its ups and downs and we grew as a result. I am a changed person because of her. I miss her so and can’t wait to continue our relationship in heaven. Below is the poem I wrote for Tammie’s funeral.
You arrived fragile, helpless, needy
We loved you, took care of you
We taught you to walk and talk
We taught you to play and laugh
You grew up slowly, through trials and pain
We helped you, nursed you, cared for you
We taught you to persevere, survive
We taught you to trust and mature
You blossomed into womanhood, marriage, and motherhood
You were a caregiver, teacher, companion
God taught you to be patient, giving
God taught you to be grateful and strong
Your body failed you, you grew weak
You were patient, selfless
You taught us to appreciate life
You taught us to be brave, loving and grateful
|In the 70s|
|At my wedding|
|Cotton candy at the Dallas Zoo|
|At my grandmother's funeral|
|Tammie's tea pot|