“Finally I understood that God was teaching me something – I’m not the boss! I’m not in charge. He will decide when I’m finished here. And now,” she said with that trademark smile, “I’m happy – really happy. I have joy!”
Apparently it started in 1957. One evening my mother-in-law attended a ladies’ group at church. The woman across from her gave her a big smile. Mom smiled back. So began a lifelong friendship. Like Mom, Mrs. Lindeboom was a young Dutch immigrant, with three children and another one yet to come. Soon Mr. Lindeboom and Dad became good friends as well.
Eventually they moved into the same neighbourhood on the Hamilton beach strip. They spent happy times together, the children stowed away in their beds and the adults talking and laughing long into the evenings – sharing memories and making new ones.
Lindebooms had a boy named John who was the same age as Jack. These two were destined to be best buddies, partners in crime. Their adventures on the beach strip included emptying a half a tank of furnace oil into the sandbox (one plastic pail at a time), and wandering out onto the ice formations on Lake Ontario, all without their mothers’ knowledge. But that’s another story.
Later on Lindebooms moved to Fruitland and VanderSlikkes to Stoney Creek, still close enough that the boys could bike to each others’ houses. Friendship between the parents continued to flourish. As a foursome they went out for dinners, shows and parties, or just enjoyed Saturday nights in one another’s homes. For decades they brought in the New Year together. Even after Mom and Dad moved to Harriston (a two hour drive), they spent weekends with each other and made a point of visiting on special occasions. When Mr. Lindeboom passed away seven years ago Mom and Dad felt the loss deeply.
Mrs. Lindeboom remained a faithful friend. As the years passed, the distance became more of a challenge for them. They visited as often as possible and kept in touch through letters and phone calls. When city driving became difficult I would sometimes offer to take Mom to visit someone. She would always choose to see “Janna – my best friend.” Most years we managed to make the trip for Mrs. L’s birthday in April.
This past winter was a tough one for Mom and she wasn’t able to travel in the spring. Mrs. Lindeboom came to visit her, but Mom still wanted to get to Fruitland. However, in June Harriston received 160 mm of rainfall and my in-laws had to deal with a flooded basement. Then in July came the news that Mrs. L was in the hospital with a serious heart issue. Mom worried – would her friend (now over 90) ever make it back to her own home?
For a lifetime
I assured Mom that if and when she did, we would visit ASAP. That day came this week.
When we arrived Mrs. Lindeboom hugged Mom tightly, then stood back and gripped her by the arms. “You look good, Riet,” she said, “And how do I look? Do I look like an old lady?”
“Well,” said Mom, “You are 92! But you look pretty good too.” And they laughed together.
Over coffee Mrs. Lindeboom told us how poorly she had felt prior to going to the hospital. Weak and tired, she was certain her days on earth were done. When she woke up and realized she was still here, she was shocked. She struggled with disappointment, frustration and even anger. Then at last peace came. “Finally I understood that God was teaching me something – I’m not the boss! I’m not in charge. He will decide when I’m finished here. And now,” she said with that trademark smile, “I’m happy – really happy. I have joy!”
“I’m glad you’re still here,” Mom said.
With that they began to chat the way old friends do – as if they hadn’t missed more than a day with each other.
I snapped a picture as they said goodbye and showed it to them on my phone.
“Not bad!” said Mrs. L.
“Not bad at all!” said Mom.
As I write, Jack is out to dinner with his best friend John. It’s their Friday night tradition. And I’m here, thinking about what a special blessing it is to have friends for a lifetime. Even better – to have friends we know we’ll see in eternity. Those are forever friends.