Saturday, January 30, 2016
A few days ago I received an unexpected and sobering email. Hedy, my best friend throughout our teenage years, had cried out in the night from what turned out to be a burst cerebellar aneurysm deep in the brain. Within minutes, she had passed into eternity.
We had studied at the same ballet school, worked hard and sweated together, rehearsed and performed in the same troupe, shared our dreams, disappointments, and triumphs, We helped each other through the heartbreak of first crushes, family problems, school struggles, conflicts in our dance world. We confided in one another about sorrows we could not bear to discuss with anyone else.
Best of all, we laughed, long and hard, about so many things. How much better and healthier than to cry over problems we could not control (Proverbs 17:22). Together we agonized through stretching exercises, bandaged our blistered feet, and stuffed cardboard and lambs’ wool in our pointe shoes to ease the pain.But we always found ways to make it fun!
We enjoyed studying pictures and reading biographies of great ballerinas, learning about stage makeup, and rehearsing in my family’s living room. We improvised to classical music recorded on LPs, and choreographed ballets we dreamed we would produce one day.
When we were juniors in high school, Hedy helped me get my first semi-professional gig as a ballet dancer. She had heard of auditions at a local ballet company, and was supportive and encouraging (Ephesians 4:2) rather than resentful when I was cast as a soloist.
But shortly thereafter, time, space and plans separated us. I went off to college as a premed student and she continued to pursue her ballet studies, supporting herself through odd jobs at dance studios and working long hours, yet never too tired to polish and her perfect her own craft.
In the years to come we seldom saw one another, yet the bond between us could never be broken. Hedy was not only like a sister to me, but also like a daughter to my mother when I moved out of state, accompanying her on long trips to our family burial plot and responding quickly to emergencies. We kept in touch through phone calls and mostly through long but sporadic letters. Pouring out our hearts to one another on the written page was almost like confiding in one another face to face.
As the years went on, our life paths continued to diverge, even though we both continued to explore our love of dance. Hedy opened her own dance studio and offered scholarships to underprivileged children, teaching them by example her joy in dance, and the devotion, dedication and discipline needed to advance in this unique art form that uses the human body as the instrument of expression.
I became a neurologist, got married, had a son, and had a successful career, first in academics and then in private practice. But I never lost my joy in dancing, and began performing, competing and choreographing with my husband and dance partner.
In 2000, my life took a dramatic turn. I was born again (John 3:1-8) by realizing that I was a sinner in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23), and that Jesus Christ, Son of God and God Himself, came to earth in human form (John 1:1-14).
He died on the cross as the perfect, sinless Sacrifice to pay for all our sins, to reconcile sinful man to Holy God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Hebrews 2:17). He was buried and rose again on the third day, so that all who trust Him as Lord and Savior would have abundant, eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 3:16; 10:10).
Naturally, I wanted to share this life-changing experience with Hedy, so I put it into words with pen on stationery, and prayed it would touch her heart. Several months went by, and I wondered if I had offended her or if she thought the pressures of my career had driven me off the deep end.
But then I received her letter and tore open the envelope with trembling hands. She explained that she was shocked at first, but that she valued my opinion enough to reflect carefully on what I had written. Praise God, she too had trusted Christ as her Lord and Savior!
Hedy began seeking out Christian friends and listening to Christian radio, and I prayed that she would find a Bible-preaching, loving church home, to encourage others and be encouraged, and to worship God and study His Word together (Hebrews 10:25).
What a blessing to learn, in that otherwise dismal email I just received, that the grandmother of one of her students had invited Hedy to go to church with her, and that Hedy had enjoyed attending services there!
Her memorial service was held at that church with more than a hundred of her students and their families coming to pay their respects and to honor the love she had shown them during her all-too-brief time with them. We don’t understand why Hedy’s life was cut off so abruptly (James 4:14), but we can trust that God has His reasons for bringing her home (Romans 8:28).
With God there are no coincidences, and it made me smile as I thought of the church to which He had guided her. The church is about a 15 mile drive from where Hedy grew up, lived, and had her school. And yet, it is within walking distance of the home where I grew up and where Hedy visited me often for teenage sleepovers.
When I was a young girl, long before I knew Christ, I used to walk or bike around our neighborhood (in the days and in a town when and where it was safe for children to explore their community without close adult supervision). I always felt drawn to the church that Hedy would end up joining decades later. Sometimes when I felt troubled or just needed to think things over, I would park my bike outside and go in, for it was always left unlocked even though no one was there.
Once inside I was always struck by the quiet, so profound that I could hear the rustling of air molecules in my ears. Often I would pray silently to God, although I didn’t yet know Him. Thank God that He knew me and a plan for me since before the beginning of time, drawing me to Himself (Jeremiah 29:11; Acts 17:27). Thank God that He had a plan for Hedy too, and that He allowed me the awesome privilege of being the one to tell her about Him! (1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Corinthians 5:20)
Praise God for friends who encourage and support us, sharing our burdens as well as our joy (Ecclesiastes 4:12; Galatians 6:2). For the Christian, death of a loved one in Christ brings sorrow as we miss them on earth, for they cannot return to us, yet we know that we will one day go to them, praise God! (2 Samuel 12:23).
This gives us the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and the joy of anticipating that blessed and lively hope (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3) of living with Him and with one another throughout eternity (1 Corinthians 15:54-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
One day Hedy and I will meet again, praising Him with dance! (Psalm 149:3; 150:4) Perhaps we will dance before His throne the dances we choreographed as teenagers but never had a chance to perform!
© 2016 Laurie Collett