When I was growing up, I was a loner with acute social anxiety and never had a close friend. I wanted there to be someone with whom I would feel comfortable enough to share anything, and who wouldn’t be afraid to tell me all her secrets—a friendship where I would be understood and accepted, and could just be “me”—but I wondered if those friendships only existed in books.
When I was 14, though, I found just that kind of friend! From the first day we met, it was almost like Stephanie and I had known each other all our lives. We confided in each other, and I felt at ease with her, without any trace of my usual anxiety.
We shared common interests and hobbies, and seemed to have the same opinion about pretty much everything. Our families joked that we shared a brain, because we often finished each other’s sentences.
When I followed the call in my heart to join a mission in another country, I missed Stephanie … a lot. But I knew we would stay in touch. After all, you don’t find a friend like that every day. We wrote each other back and forth a few times. For my birthday, she sent a drawing—of two wolves and an eagle—and a newsy letter about everything she had been up to and the plans she had.
I never got another letter from her.
Instead, I received a long-distance phone call a week later. Stephanie had been hit by a speeding truck while biking a mountain trail with her boyfriend. She had died within hours.
I couldn’t speak. The world suddenly seemed void of color and empty of air. I collapsed onto a chair and into tears. How could she be dead? Why Stephanie? She hadn’t even reached adulthood. And she’d had so many dreams. She’d wanted to make the world a better place, and I just knew she was going to do something great. She’d wanted to get married and have children. She’d been my friend, my best friend. Amidst the sobs that came from a place so deep it felt like my heart was being torn apart, I asked God “Why?”
Suddenly, I felt something … more than a thought, more than a feeling. Where a moment before I had been filled with deep sorrow and despair, now I was overcome by a wondrous feeling of lightness and joy.
A phrase came to mind: If you only knew what it’s like here! I felt Stephanie’s presence—only for an instant, but it was enough. Somehow, I knew she was letting me know that she was okay. I knew she was in a better place, a place of wonder and light and life beyond anything I could imagine. And I knew that I would see her again.
It left me with the indelible belief that every life has a deeper purpose than I can understand. There was a beautiful purpose for Stephanie’s life; and yes, even for her death. Even if I can’t understand it, I can believe that one day I will.
That day, every tear that tries to dim our eyes will be wiped away. That day, we will finally meet Jesus face to face. That day, we will be reunited with those we loved and lost for a time. That day will last for eternity.