December 2, 1998 was my twentieth birthday. My friends showered me with cards and gifts and balloons, and my mom had sent a cake back to school with me after Thanksgiving break. It was a Wednesday, cold but not too miserable.
It was more than just my birthday, too, although I didn’t know that at the time. Something happened that day . . .
Big important events don’t usually happen out of the blue. When we look back we see what led to them, come to understand the back story, the truth of the matter.
And for me, it started about a month before my birthday, when his girlfriend and I were talking about her plans for Sadie Hawkins. She had to plan the date, and my suggestions were weird and goofy (like him, like me!), which led us to a conversation about her feelings about their relationship. She wasn’t sure it was working out.
We sat in the cafeteria, discussing him. I remember telling her to pray about it. I was sure he was head over heels for her. He was my friend, and I didn’t want to see him with a broken heart.
Over the next weeks I saw him with new eyes. He was funny, and thoughtful, and kind, and did I mention funny? I felt my heart being pulled to him, but I resisted. I had spent my entire freshman year pining away for a guy who was in love with my roommate. I wasn’t going to let myself do that again.
But I couldn’t help but notice how wonderful he was. And I certainly couldn’t understand how the one who held his heart could not see the person that he was– not appreciate it.
He gave me a birthday card in chapel on December 2nd. It was one of those personalized ones you used to be able to make at a kiosk at WalMart. He had made it for me over Thanksgiving break– and he had walked two miles to WalMart in the cold Iowa November to do so.
I can’t remember if he told me that part just then, or later. It should have been a clue.
That day he helped me carry all my treasures back from chapel to my dorm. We walked together and he made me laugh.
Always, always, we have walked together and laughed. Even in pain, in sorrow. We have walked together with laughter in our hearts.
It should have been a clue.
His sister says she knew from the beginning– before either of us. He wrote letters to her that spoke more of me than of the girlfriend. They glowed with what was deep in him, that neither of us knew about.
That Wednesday, after church ministries and Bible studies, they broke up. Of course I didn’t know that then. I was back in my dorm, doing dorm things, talking to friends, laughing, probably eating leftover cake and re-reading my birthday cards. Including one from that guy from Washington– Schnooky– who was a great guy but who I was not going to be interested in, thankyouverymuch.
When I heard on December 3 that she had broken up with him, I feared his heart was broken. But I had only heard half the story. The truth was they had sat down to have this conversation with both of them intending to break up. They left as friends, and I’m so glad because she was my friend.
And he was about to become my best friend.