This weekend I attended a doctoral graduation ceremony out of state. The car ride was 6 hours long and my mom and I faced an additional 1 1/2 hour delay due to a four-car accident. Rumor had it there was a semi involved. Even though I didn’t see the accident I know it had to be bad as the helicopter circling 10 miles ahead of us indicated this was serious. I reminded my mom and myself of this as we watched the clock turn from 2pm to 3pm and as we sat there with the car turned off to conserve gas.
My friend’s ceremony began at 3pm and it was very important that we made it there in enough time to see her walk across the stage. It was very important because some 15 years ago we had become best friends. She was in fact my first real best friend. The one who stood by me and had my back no matter what. I didn’t have to worry about her talking behind my back as others did before her. I didn’t have to worry about her deciding that suddenly she didn’t want to be friends as I had experienced in the past.
She was faithful and loving and mine.
We were two pees in a pod and I have this memory of us sitting in my living room floor at age 15 discussing college. “I don’t think I’ll be able to go to college b/c it’s too expensive, ” she stated adamantly. “I don’t have the money”. Well not only had she made it to college, she was receiving her doctorate in Philosophy & Sociology. And I had to be there to celebrate this huge accomplishment in her life, b/c I had missed so many already. I had missed them because even though at 15 we were as thick as thieves, by 18 I had pushed her away. I had said some very harsh things via email our freshman year of college. So harsh in fact, I must have blocked out the exact words from my mind b/c I can’t recall exactly what they were. I only remember feeling justified at my anger.
You see back then I thought I was in love and I thought that man was the only one I needed in my life. I didn’t see the value of anyone else who loved me. I was drowning in waves of rejection, bitterness and anger and I hadn’t a clue that I needed a lifeguard to save me. Sadly, I took out those negative emotions on her. I pushed her away and moved on with my life, not looking back. I betrayed her. I guess it was only fitting that the one I betrayed her for, would eventually betray me.
But now we’re 30 and I finally see that her love for me is more valuable than 10 boyfriends. 10 husbands. I finally see that she is not just my friend but my sister. So come hell or high-water we were going to make this graduation because I had to be there for my sister.
Well we finally did make it, just 5 minutes after she walked the stage. I was crushed but reminded myself that I had 24 hours to enjoy her presence and that was even better.
Thankfully later on that evening I did get to see her walk the stage at the ceremony for black students. I screamed my heart out and pumped my fists along with her other 25+ family and friends. She had made it.
8 years of endurance, hard work, and discipline and she had made it.
I got to tell her how proud I was. I got to text her throughout the ceremony and call her Dr Redmond. I got to remind her of how 15 years ago she didn’t even think she would attend undergrad let alone receive an advanced degree. The highest advanced degree possible.
And I got to apologize.
With tears in my eyes I shared about my ignorance. My immaturity. To let her go and not look back was the biggest regret of my life to date and I was going to need Jesus to help me let it go. “It doesn’t matter”, was her response. “None of it matters”. We were both crying now because God had given us another chance and now I was smart enough to take it. She shared that she was able to forgive me b/c I was the highlight of her life in that season. She was facing so much rejection from her own family; she had no one to call her own except me and my family. And even though I had left her, they had not. My grandmother and mother were still there. Calling her granddaughter. Calling her daughter. She shared that when my grandmother was glorified, that was the hardest time in her life and it actually led her to Christ.
As much as I regret my past decisions I’m so grateful for redemption. God redeems the times. He teaches us and grows us so that we do not continue making the same mistakes. And even though 12 years ago I pushed her away, I’m so grateful that God brought her back. I’m so grateful that she was able to welcome me with open arms back into her life, keeping that space available in her heart reserved only for me. Her friend. Her sister.