I woke suddenly last night thinking of an old friend. As I lay there, I realized I have known her, quite literally, as long as I can remember and memories flooded my mind: playing Barbies at her house when we were very young, playing games and going to dances with her and a large group of friends, long talks about boys.
I remember working as partners in French class, watching as she defended her beliefs (and mine) in an Advanced English Lit class to a wonderful but obstinate teacher who doubled as a debate coach.
I remember sharing a business class to which she once came in late (beaming) with the only excuse the teacher said he would ever accept - she had been hit by an STA bus (luckily she was in her car), and a wild and week-long scavenger hunt resulting, ultimately, in invitations from our dates to the junior prom.
I have memories of accompanying her as she sang at so many events, always with a beautiful voice and a smile. And I have memories of her in college. Although we didn't see each other as much, when we did, it felt like nothing had changed.
The semester my brother Mark died, I ran into her on campus. She asked how things were going and reluctantly I told her my woes. Based on other friends' reactions, I wasn't sure what to expect. College kids are not adept at responding appropriately to tragic situations. But Anna was different. I remember her response, because it mirrored my own emotions. She empathized perfectly and made me feel like my grief was okay.
Among all these thoughts, there was one thing I couldn't remember. I couldn't think of an instance when Anna spoke an unkind word, or was caught up in some silly social drama. I couldn't think when she had ever lacked faith, or complained about anything she was expected to do. I couldn't think of a single time when Anna had been anything less than a perfect example.
For several years after college, Anna and I were out of touch. An occasional Christmas card let us know what was going on, but it wasn't until last year that I was able to keep up more with her life. Not surprising, in the face of her very real challenges, which surpass some of my darkest dreads, it is clear Anna has not changed.
She is amazingly patient and positive, steadfast and stalwart where others would simply give up.
If I, on my best day, could be what Anna is on her worst, I will have made great strides.