If you told me at age sixteen that one day I would be good friends with my high-school principal, I would have laughed.
Yet, here we are. Twenty years later, I call her by her first name now, and we text message each other weekly.
Her name is Debbie. She is soft-spoken and full of faith. She lost her husband, Terry, unexpectedly, almost five years ago. I remember the memorial service vividly, just filled with students who loved them both deeply. Debbie and Terry never had children of their own. Many of their former students had become like family.
Recently on my commute into work, Debbie was on my mind. I was praying as I drove, and I felt like God was directing my thoughts. He brought to mind the Christmas season, Debbie’s house, her commute home in the dark and rain, and I just got the sense that He wanted to encourage her. Without hearing exact words in prayer, I glimpsed a vision of her home all lit up with lights. I thought about how Terry must have always been the one who put them up.
Thanks to Facebook, I began to contact former students with this idea. Ping… ping… the texts of “Im in!” and “Great idea! Thanks for including me!” began to flood my phone. We’d gathered funds to buy the lights, hired someone to hang them (and take them down in January!) and have it all done while she was at work. The whole thing would be set on a timer, so she wouldn’t have to lift a finger.
Last Wednesday, Debbie pulled into her driveway after a long day. White, twinkling lights lit her home to greet her. I imagined each bulb representing a student she and Terry have influenced. Perhaps the brightest one of all could represent Terry himself, lovingly waiting to be reunited with the woman he loves. Until that moment, we will take care of her, Terry. Its not the same as if you were here, of course, but she is not alone.