A mid-July Facebook post brought Sheila Greybull back into my life, just after I’d shared a quote there mentioning “heaven.”
“That’s where I want to go!” my childhood friend had responded. I hadn’t heard from her in a while, but, knowing her health had been tenuous for some time, I sensed more urgency than distant hope in her comment.
The next day, another friend confirmed Sheila’s grave status, passing on updated contact information. Not knowing her energy level, I texted Sheila some heartfelt words, hoping to encourage her.
“You have never, ever not returned my cries for prayers,” she responded. “Please pray for my kids and grandkids…”
Her note back sent my soul swirling. Words no longer seemed enough. “Go to her! Go while you can!” a voice within tugged. By the next day, my plane ticket for Great Falls, Montana, was booked.
In the days leading up to my visit, I asked one of her daughters if there was anything Sheila needed.
“She wants you to write her obit ,” she responded. I gulped hard. “Of course; I can do that.”
Something beyond my own intentions seemed to be unfolding now, something divinely ordered. Yes, I would be going there to wrap my arms around my friend, but beyond that, to hear her story. More than just interviewing her about her years, my mission would be to give Sheila space to speak her life.
“You can do this,” I told my reluctant self. How many times had I sat before someone with my notebook and pen, asking questions and recording their answers? And so it was that, shortly after my arrival, Sheila and I talked for hours, both at her home and the kidney dialysis clinic she frequented for treatments.
“They tell me I’m dying, but I don’t feel it,” she’d said. “I’m not in any pain.”
We reminisced, we laughed, and I learned more about my friend than I’d known in all the years before.
Sheila had had to let go of so much, including, tragically in 2010, her son Ryan, whose adult life was just beginning. And now, at only 55, she was being robbed of life’s simplest pleasures, her once-primed athletic body in decline.
Yet, as we whiled away the hours together, 2 Corinthians 4:16 came to mind. I was experiencing a vitally intact spirit, reminding me of the glory of life, a soul readying to claim her rightful place in Jesus’ heart.
Just days after I left her home, Sheila left us. I’ve never been so grateful for making what initially might’ve seemed a rash decision.
“You made everything easier to deal with!” she’d texted afterward. But I was the blessed one, touching, in a sense, the suffering Christ.
Facebook — and God’s urging — brought me back to Sheila, and recently, to her wake and funeral at the Fort Peck reservation to grieve with her family, now endeared to me. I’m forever grateful.
Fly high, my beautiful friend. Until we meet again, I’ll see you in the sunsets!
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Sept. 4, 2023.]