As we go through life, we have friends that come and go in our lives. The ones that we form special bonds with, become part of our story and if we are lucky, they get to be a part of that story for our entire life. One of those life-long friends for me is Kathy Vanden Bossche. After coming across each other in a Sunday School newsletter, we started writing because we shared the same birthdate, although she is a year older than me.
Kathy and I were in middle school at the time we started writing. I hate to “date” myself, but if you do the math, that was 48 years ago. She lived in California with her parents and sisters and brother. I lived in Missouri with my parents and brother and sister. We wrote handwritten letters and sent them back and forth, sharing pictures and details of our daily lives. I knew that I could tell Kathy anything and I didn’t have to worry about her telling anyone here, not that she would anyway, but that’s how middle school girls think!
Over the years, we have been through a lot of life together. Graduating from high school, college, marriages, divorces, children…we were always there for each other. We finally spoke on the phone a couple of times and when cell phones came about it opened up a new door for us. With the internet, came new opportunities for communication, however, we rarely emailed each other. Handwritten letters were therapy, especially for me who was an English major in college.
When I was pregnant with my third child, we had the opportunity to take our first family trip and flew to California to stay with Kathy and her family, who took us sightseeing and to the ocean. One of Kathy’s friends asked her if it was weird to have someone she’d never met face-to-face come into her home and spend a week. Her answer was “I feel like I’ve known her all my life!” It was on that trip, at which point we’d been communicating for about 20 years that I discovered she was left handed. Who knew by just seeing the written word?
Shortly after my son’s birth, I was divorced and raised my three children virtually on my own. Life was busy but whenever I could find the time and money, I would go to visit her. After one particular trip out there, she called me to tell me that she had discovered through bloodwork for a diet she was planning on trying, that she had leukemia. That was over ten years ago and she has been through numerous treatments and expensive medications, and is still going strong.
A few years ago, she finally gave in and came to visit me in Missouri. She hates to fly but I finally convinced her she had to come. It was so much fun showing her where I lived, introducing her to my family and letting her see first-hand all the places I talked about in all those letters, all those years.
Last summer, I met Kathy and her family in Las Vegas for her daughter’s wedding. It was special to be included in the small event that included only family. After the wedding, while the rest of her family headed back to real life, Kathy took me to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion State Park. It was truly a Bucket List trip and spending it with Kathy made it even more special.
The times I get to spend with Kathy are some of the most precious times of my life. Her friendship is one of the best gifts God has ever given me and I will forever be thankful for having her in my life. Who knew 48 years ago when I opened up that Sunday School paper I would find a gift that keeps on giving! Here’s to 48 more years of being my best friend forever!