Stacey was my friend since we were three years old. We went to school and church together until we graduated from high school and went off to different colleges. When I think back over those 14-15 years and remember Stacey, I'm brought smack up against some of the ugliest things in my own character. I have memories from as young as six of getting in trouble at recess for not letting Stacey play with me. I remember in middle school teasing Stacey mercilessly to impress older, "cool" kids, and in high school I resented her for calmly accepting the poor performance of our volleyball team while I rode emotional highs and lows along with our wins and losses. Essentially, from the time we were in first grade, Stacey was a kind, gentle, sweet girl, and I was bossy and controlling. Yet, we were friends. Actually, aside from the low moments that stick in my mind because of my own bad behavior, we had a fantastic friendship. We sang in ensemble and in a duet together, we played PACEbowl together, we played volleyball together and co-captained the volleyball team our senior year. We were the only two 8th graders on the girls' high school basketball team.
I remember Stacey for her gentle and quiet spirit, her love for other people, regardless of their "cool" factor, her hard work--I think she was the first in our class to buy her own car--and her faithfulness. She was so faithful to be at youth group, at ensemble practice, at volleyball practice, and work, but I remember her the most for smiling. As I've been looking through the few photos I have with me in Africa of our childhood, she's smiling in every single one...a giant, ear-to-ear, full face smile.
I remember the time Stacey came to Physical Education without any shorts on, because the way she was wired, it was worse to be late or skip a class than to show up half-dressed. I remember a slumber party at Stacey's house and the crazy pictures that resulted. I remember the time Stacey and I shared a dorm room at George Fox University, as middle-schoolers, and made friends with various Mennonites and home schoolers from around the state at the very first Convention that our school participated in. I remember Stacey, a careful and cautious driver, never, ever winning the inevitable race from off-campus lunch back to chapel on Wednesdays our senior year. I remember how proud Stacey was of getting to go deer hunting with her dad. I remember when Stacey started dating Jacob, so quietly at first, and I remember their wedding day and how beautiful she was that day. I remember how diligently she kept in touch with me as travel and moving and life created separation, and how excited she was for our first, informal class reunion. I remember how she rejoiced over the birth of each of her five children.
Vividly I remember how bravely Stacey announced that doctors had found cancer and that the prospects were grim. I remember how bravely she wrote updates about treatment after treatment, travel after travel, tumor after tumor. I remember seeing her when I first got back to the States last October, and I wouldn't have recognized her, except for that gorgeous smile. I remember how the only shadow that crossed her face during that lunch was when she told us that she'd not be able to have any more children. I remember the last time I saw Stacey, in January, after a brain tumor had caused some paralysis in her face, and how she loved looking at the photos of our childhood. I remember how she cried when Angie announced that her daughter, born last week, would have "Stacey" as her middle name in honor of our friend. I remember hugging her goodbye, thinking that this might possibly be the last time I would see her.
It was, indeed, the last time I saw her. Stacey's aggressive brain tumors finally took her life on 14 April while she was home with her husband and children. She was in so much pain at the end, and was not herself. Her memorial service is tomorrow at Athey Creek Church, and I'm sorry not to be able to attend and pay tribute to a wonderful woman, a great friend, and a loving, faithful daughter of our Heavenly Father.
|Photo taken from Facebook, credit to Debi Criss|