I learned so much from Jennifer Goodman.

Jennifer was one of my very first Christian friends. We met at work. I was young in the Lord. She had walked God since she was young. I was trying to figure out how life in the Lord worked. She had gone to Bible college and served as a missionary overseas. I was newly single and new to myself in a lot of ways. I didn’t have hobbies or interests. I didn’t know what I liked or didn’t like. But Jennifer was active and busy and was always engaged in living life.

I liked her. I wanted to know what she knew. I wanted a life that was like hers, filled with activity and fun and busyness. She came to work one day with a quilt she had made. It was beautiful.

“How did you make that?” I asked her. “I took a class,” she said.

“Wow, I’d like to learn to do that,” I answered. “I’m taking another class, why don’t you take it with me?” she asked.

From that point on, Jennifer let me tag along to all kinds of things with her. And I learned.

I learned about going to the gym before work and the importance of sleeping in your gym clothes to save time in the morning.

I learned how to make the best rolled sugar cookies. But I could never learn to decorate them as beautifully as she did.

I learned how important it was to have a disciplined church life, to be committed to a church body. I learned that it was critical not to compromise your Christian principles.

I learned that it was 3 1/2 miles around the Rose Bowl and that if you were walking briskly, you could get around in 47 minutes.

I learned that you should never let your season of life, what you did or didn’t have, your hopes, your dreams, your desires keep you from exploring the world the Lord had created.

And I learned that even if you don’t see the friends you love but every once in awhile when you run into them in a Hallmark store, it doesn’t change your affection for them or the connection you share.

That was my relationship with Jennifer over the last several years. More often than not we would run into each other at the card store where we both loved to browse for fun and interesting cards to send to friends.

Jennifer was a faithful card sender.

On December 22, I came home from visiting my grandmother. I was drained. Emotionally. Spiritually. Physically. In every possible way, I was exhausted. Before pulling into the driveway, I stopped to get the mail. The mail would have been delivered hours earlier.

And there it was. Jennifer’s Christmas card, I thought! Her handwriting was unmistakable. Seeing it gave me a lift. We hadn’t talked for awhile and I was glad to hear from my precious friend. To hear that she was well.

Only it wasn’t a Christmas card. And it wasn’t exactly from Jennifer. And all was not well. I opened the envelope and pulled out what was inside. It was an Easter card, covered with fluffy yellow chicks. “Hmmm,” I thought. “That’s interesting.”

Out fell a slip of paper. It was a note from Jennifer’s mom, saying she had found the card in Jennifer’s things and decided to send it.

Jennifer had died. She must have addressed the card in the spring, intended to send it but never did. But now here it was in my hand. But she was gone. I was devastated. I broke down. I cried. Hard. For a long time.

Not because she was gone. I know where she is. She’s with Him, with her Lord, with her Jesus. And as much she loved her life here, lived it to the fullest, she’s living a life now that is beyond description. She’s more than happy. She has joy unspeakable.

But my heart hurt for the lost opportunity to tell my friend how much I appreciated her, appreciated what she did for me all those years ago. Appreciated everything I learned from her. To tell her how much I loved her and how much I loved her spirit. To tell her what an influence she had been on me. How I used her life as an example to others for so many things. I never got to tell her any of those things. The pain of that lost opportunity overwhelms me even now. I can feel the tears rising.

I grieve the loss of my friend. I grieve for her mother who lost her beautiful daughter. For her niece who as a little girl called her Auntie Fer-Fer because she couldn’t say Jennifer. I grieve for her sisters and the rest of her family and her friends that feel her loss so deeply. I grieve…

Three days later, my grandmother died. My grief increased. And my heart cried out louder to the Lord. It screamed out. My pain was blinding.

In the days and weeks that followed, He spoke gently to me…

“Remember, I’m doing something.”