"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun. A time to be born and a time to die..." Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
I saw it on Facebook just the other day. It seems to be the new way to find out someone you know has died. I would much rather have preferred a phone call, the way one used to find out such sad events. The picture of her was accompanied by a post, stating that "yet another one of God's angels is gone from my life. Rest in peace Diane." The photo, added by Jen, who works at the group home not far from my house, was a little blurry, but there was no mistaking that face, that expression. The background showed the red and white of the track at a local high school, where I last saw her, where her caregiver was trying to talk her into throwing the softball and running the 50-meter race. She would have none of it. It always took her some time to acclimate to new places and activities. But she usually agreed, when she was good and ready, and after being promised her beloved ice cream.
Her face, her beautiful face, accompanied by the ever-present head band holding back her thinning brown hair, was the face of my friend, Diane, who happened to have been born with Down syndrome a little more than 50 years ago. I first met her at the group home where my friend, Richard, lived. Diane approached me then, and I was warned by her caregivers that she sometimes pulled hair. I obliged when she came in for the hug, knowing I was taking my chances but hoping for the best. She didn't pull my hair that first time, but eventually she did! It might have been the third or fourth time I visited. It was funny, actually, the way the caregiver admonished her and ran over to me to help me extricate my hair from her fingers. When she let go she had a smile on her face, as if to say, "Ha, gotcha!"
After Richard died, I continued to see Diane, though infrequently and mostly at the park or when Cliff and I attended the Special Olympics practices. Even after a long absence, she would say shyly, "Hi Cee-ya!", making me wonder at the Alzheimer's diagnosis the doctor gave her last year. She always knew me.
The day I found out Diane had passed away unexpectedly from pneumonia, I cried because I was so very fond of her. And she was gone too soon. She was funny and stubborn, fun-loving and sweet.
She was, come to think of it, a lot like Cliff. I will always miss her.
When Cliff came home from work on the day I found out about Diane, I held onto the hug a little longer, tried a little harder to make him laugh, listened to his loud, off-key singing a little more patiently. Whenever I looked at him, it was impossible not to think about Diane and Richard. Impossible not to think about life expectancy, and the pain I sometimes feel when my imagination goes wild.
That's where faith comes in, I suppose. Faith that all is as it should be, and that there is love, always love.