A Portion of Linda’s Story–A Friend’s Perspective
“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.” ~~attributed to Maya Angelou, who quoted Zora Neale Hurston in her 1942 published work Dust Tracks on the Road.
I think I’ve lost count of the times my friend Linda said, “Perhaps you could tell my story. You know, I could recount it for you and you could write out my testimony.”
And I lament because now it’s too late. Linda stepped in to Heaven’s splendor on January 18th, 2021 and is now with Jesus. Indeed, her story has just begun.
The last time she mentioned my doing such was some months ago. We talked on the phone in late summer, not long after the cancer diagnosis that sent her reeling. But she knew right where to go–straight into the arms of her Savior, and so we prayed together. Asked for His comfort. His healing.
It wasn’t too much to ask, and Linda believed as best as anyone that He was fully capable of such. It was probably me who doubted a bit. Oh my, such little faith.
That’s one thing I learned from my friend Linda–great big faith in a loving, ever-present Father. But that’s not the only thing.
And as I ponder this lost opportunity–the chance to lean in and really listen to Linda tell her tale–it’s as if I hear the Lord whisper, “It’s not too late, because sometimes the greatest portrayals aren’t autobiographies but biographies–the telling of one’s story from the perspective of another being no small thing.”
No small thing–the great big story of a little lady named Linda Ann.
“Oh, I just have to tell you,” she began, her excitement making her a bit breathless. “We have so much in common.”
I shifted from the podium where I’d just finished sharing my story to an ample gathering of ladies. Before me stood a middle-aged woman wearing a broad smile and colorful attire. Like me, she was blonde and fair-skinned, and her blue eyes sparkled.
“I’m Linda. Linda Eroh.” She extended her hand, and I took it. “Thank you for sharing your story.” The words tumbled out. “And I just have to tell you, the part about your children and your relationship with their birthmothers …” She paused to catch her breath, choose her words. “Well, that meant so much to me. You see, I … I, too, am a birthmother.”
Her eyes expressed her emotion. I witnessed in them what I could only call pride–not of the haughty type but more the hold-your-head-up-high-with-dignity variety. It was as if, in that moment, she’d finally found, perhaps for the very first time, validation–worth–in adding this word to her list of names.
She was wife to John. Mother to Dorothy, Jeanette, and Pete. Grandmother to several. Friend to many. Daughter. Sister. Worshiper. And now…
Her eyes told me that, having heard a bit of my adoption journey–how we love and highly regard our children’s birthmothers–she could add this name and the events that surrounded its actuality to her story, a beautiful chapter all its own. Not one of shame or remorse or regret but rather redemption and mercy and grace. Not tucked within pages to perhaps be overlooked but a stand-alone story within her story–that which speaks of God’s healing power to bring great purpose from pain.
As we spoke briefly that day all those years ago, I was humbled that anything I had said could have had such an effect, but seeds were planted at that ladies’ gathering in 2005 and a friendship took root–blossoming over fifteen years.
I’ll never forget how, some years later, we ended up in the same small church. Linda would remind me often, “Remember when we first met? Your story helped me realize my valuable role as a birthmother.”
And once, when our oldest son Ian’s birthmother attended service with us, Linda introduced herself to Cindy like they were old friends–the bonds of both having placed babies for adoption a mysterious thread that Linda felt joined them together. “I’m Linda, and I, like you, am a birthmother. The daughter I placed is named Tricia.”
Perhaps that’s why Linda always felt kindred with our children–especially our daughter who arrived quite unexpectedly in late March 2012. Maybe loving on them–giving them cards and little gifts over the years–made her feel as though she was giving her own daughter, the one she’d placed many years before, expressions of her love.
But Linda was known for giving gifts and cards. One friend shared recently that, when her own mother was sick and in the hospital, Linda sent a get-well card to her, though they’d never even met. Each year, I would receive a birthday greeting, as did my mom, as did many others.
And because Linda and I shared birthdays within just a span of a couple days, we made it an annual event to have lunch together. Sometimes others would join us, especially my own mom whose birthday is in October. We’d meet at a local restaurant or park, usually between late September and late October to celebrate, and it was always a special treat, because–more than the food or even the dessert–the time spent was wonderful as well as good for the soul, the conversation always easy and encouraging.
One such birthday lunch a couple years ago was particularly special. Linda giggled like a girl when I arrived. She’d told me ahead of time that she had a gift to give me. This wasn’t anything new, as Linda always gave sweet gifts–symbolic tokens of friendship. But she assured me that this gift was unique, and my curiosity perked.
Joining us that day were my mom Mary and another dear and mutual friend Martha. Somehow Linda and Martha were in on this gift together, and I wondered what they were up to. Once we were seated, our order having been placed, Linda revealed the surprise. She handed me a rather large, wrapped package. “Open it,” she said. Her eyes twinkled.
I carefully removed the paper. Turning the gift over, my mouth fell open and tears welled as I stared at the piece of art.
“We painted this for you–me and Martha,” Linda exclaimed. “It’s a replica of that photo. You know, the one you took at your family farm in Michigan. You told me it was a favorite.”
And it was. Still is. Taken in 2016 while visiting the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for my beloved godmother’s funeral, it depicts a joyful Allie skipping down the gravel lane–her first experience at a place I grew up visiting and had told her stories about. I’d picked a bouquet of wildflowers as we’d walked and was able to capture my hand and wrist–the bracelet I was wearing stating my emotion in that moment perfectly. In a single word–
“I love that picture too, so Martha and I decided to paint it for you.” The two women looked at one another and smiled. “Do you like it?”
Until then, I’d not been able to speak. Looking up at my friend–one who’d already blessed my life in so many ways–I found my voice. “Yes,” I said. “Yes, I love it so very much.”
And I will always love it–this piece of art painted by my friends, one who particularly knew my heart, knew how much that moment in Michigan meant. It hangs in my writing space where I see it often, always with loving thoughts of Linda.
The last birthday gathering Mom and I had with our friend was in early November. Because she’d been receiving radiation therapy for her cancer, our celebration was a bit later than usual. Bundled in jackets, we met at a local park on a beautiful autumn day, our lunch spread out like a feast. I was impressed with Linda’s appetite. She even asked if she could have what remained of my hummus, and we rejoiced that her radiation treatments were nearing an end. We were hopeful, Linda’s childlike faith spurring us on to believe that perhaps the cancer was cured and her future on earth held promise.
As usual, we exchanged cards and simple gifts. Linda’s to us were little bookmarks. “To mark your place in the story.” I knew what she meant.
That was the last time I physically saw my friend. Several days prior to Christmas, she was admitted to the hospital. Because Covid prevented her family from being able to visit, I asked if my husband would look in on her after he’d finished his rounds, which he kindly did. How surprised and delighted was I to receive a FaceTime call from him. “There’s someone here who’d like to say hello,” he said, handing his phone to Linda.
I was driving, so I carefully held my phone up, though I kept my eyes on the road. “Oh my goodness! What a wonderful treat!”
Linda and I talked for a few moments. She shared that she’d been having some kidney troubles. “Probably because I’m not eating much,” she explained.
“Well, tell them to get you some good food,” I replied. “Better yet, maybe you should order a pizza to be delivered–because, who am I kidding?” I continued. “You’re in the hospital.”
My friend giggled like a girl. “It’s not too bad. I’m just not very hungry these days.”
And I knew.
The phone call came several weeks later. Linda’s daughter Dorothy, who’s also a very dear friend, told me what I’d been expecting, though was praying against. “Momma’s dying. It’s only a matter of time. Please just pray for her peace–that she’ll continue to be pain-free, despite her body shutting down.”
And that was a miracle. Linda, though diminishing day by day, didn’t express being in pain–cancer’s insidious presence not causing my friend anguish. That was the prayer of many, I know, and God was gracious.
She passed peacefully, enveloped by the love of her family, on January 18th and is now with Jesus. As I said and firmly believe, her story’s just beginning.
Still, I’ve had the pressing urgency to share her story as I know it–the little bit I’ve been privileged to be a part of over the last fifteen years since first meeting Linda after telling a bit of my own. That day, our stories merged–our journeys having been made more joyful because of friendship, rooted in Christ.
And friendship, I believe, is no small thing. Because of Linda, I’ve been abundantly…
Like the butterflies she always loved, Linda has been born to new life. And that’s the best part of her story!
Dear Jesus, please tell our friend Linda that we love her. Tell her that her story matters–even if it’s just me telling the part I’ve been privileged to know. Please remind her that her friendship was a blessing in my life and in the lives of many. Hold her tight, dear Jesus. I know she’s happy, because she always loved hugs and, more than anything, she always, always loved You! I know she’s happy, worshipping in Your presence to her favorite song, probably even playing her tambourine! I can hear her now, “There’s no god like Jehovah!” She knows that now, better than ever!
***If you have memories of Linda or want to share a piece of your shared story, please comment below. I’ll be sure to share each with her family, and I’m sure such will bring them peace and a smile.