Recently I’ve had the chance to reflect on the toughest questions in life.
What’s important? What’s not important? Most of the time, I’m juggling the priorities of the day like a chef on Chopped moving things from the front burner to the back burner to the side burner and trying to get them done before the buzzer goes off!
But the questions of my everyday life sift down to those two. What’s important? What’s not important?
I met the London girls in 1994 when Mark and I were transferred to London from Sydney. I’m pretty sure I’ve told you that in previous blogs.
I’m not going to lie, it was a difficult time for me. London greeted my mood with the rainiest and coldest January in over 200 years. But, I met Beth who introduced me to Sally, Shelley, Missy and eventually Michelle, Paige, Eileen and Denise.
We were Americans living in London and started to call ourselves the London Girls.
Together, we had adventures that involve traveling, cooking, nights out and girlfriendy conversations that are kin to Sex In The City scenes.
We worked, had babies, supported each other through adoption, international moves, divorce, parenting issues etc. Twenty-four years later, we all live in separate locations but we still meet annually for reunions and run to each others aid at a moments notice.
Every one of them is dear to me and each one brings certain gifts to the group that defines us as a whole.
Beth and Shelley are gift givers, Paige is a fun, encourager, Sally is deep and honest, Michelle is bright and thoughtful, Denise is wise and Missy is smart and funny. Eileen is funny, practical, creative and pretty much happy to let everybody else shine.
Eileen and I debated how we actually met. She says it was at a cocktail party at her house and I only remember the girls throwing us a joint baby shower at somebody’s flat in London when she was a stranger to me moving over from a stint in Singapore. As the years passed, our personal friendship grew because I think she found humor in me. I was from the South and she was from Michigan. Enough said.
On our yearly reunion trips, she could pack in a bag the size of a backpack and make 25 cute outfits while I was always lugging some big honking bag on wheels.
When we all went shopping, she never bought anything but used this time to flip through clothes on the rack next to me and ask all about my kids and Mark.
She had a way of seeing through my frantic perfectionism and taking me down a notch in such a gentle way that I could laugh at myself.
On one such trip to Greenwich to see Paige, …Eileen, Shelley and I were sharing a room in Paige’s house and I was frantically looking for my robe and house slippers. (yes, go ahead and laugh, I packed my robe and house slippers).
I was freaking out because I couldn’t find the house slippers and we were all getting our cozy clothes on to go have wine and popcorn downstairs. I was tearing up my suitcase and talking out loud. “Where are they, I know I packed them, I had them, Darn it!” Eileen helped me search for a minute in my giant messy bag and then stopped me and caught my wild eyes with her giant blue Irish eyes and said in all seriousness, “Well, do you have some socks?” She didn’t laugh at me. We just stared at each other for a long nanosecond. “Yes” I said slowly. And that was it. She knew how to dismantle my “crazy” with grace and practicality and I fell in love with her ability to help me see more clearly how to work with what you have and how to keep it all in perspective. It was this very characteristic that caused me to develop so much trust in her that she could take my private writing skill public. She was a talented website designer and the girls had encouraged me to write. Eileen became my coach, teacher and website designer. I trusted her to walk with me through it, launch me and then let me fly.
She held my hand with patience as I learned the techy steps to designing Ivy and Sprig. She talked me through adding photos, selecting the colors and fonts, teaching me to inbed code for products and music, and she edited and encouraged each post. I never could have hit the first publish button without her saying “Just do it and quit stressing!” What she never said but I knew she wanted to was “Hit publish for crying out loud! NO one is even reading it yet! and you can always change it!”
Perfectionism or fear of failure has been a thread running through me that often gets in the way of actually doing the thing I’ve set out to do. Eileen had a way of talking me through the JUMP stage and telling me it would be ok. Our weekly Skype sessions always involved her at her computer and I at mine laughing and catching up first then getting down to business. I had to write EVERYTHING down because learning the steps to website management and coding are not easy for this middle aged girl. She was patient, helpful and never condescending. I knew she was very bright but she let me slowly do the work on my own. She wanted me to have the confidence, learn the skill and shine.
She empowered me. She made an impact on me by teaching me how to encourage you through my craft.
I sat in Pam Thompson’s Bible Study last week in Houston and she reminded us that when our hope rests in the Lord rather than in any other fleeting thing, we can have the full assurance of every one of God’s promises which include eternal life because He has gone before us and conquered death.
I know I shouldn’t have had my phone out in the lecture but I did because I was waiting on any news about Eileen from her husband. She had been moved to palliative care after a valiant battle with cancer and it was time to say goodbye. Pam was discussing Naomi in Ruth, who lost her husband and two sons and that even during the deepest disappointments and grief, God never leaves us.
I traded texts with her husband who was sitting by her bedside at Mass General in Boston as my phone lay discreetly on the velvet pew cushion beside me. I was able to text her my gratefulness for our friendship and for the impact that she made on me. I promised her that I would not take for granted what she taught me. What a blessing it is to get the opportunity to say goodbye to someone. And horrible and heartbreaking too.
I heard Pam say “picture the scene….deep disappointment and loss. But then it just so happened that they came into the field of Boaz and it was harvest time.” She went on to say “do not stay in bitterness and disappointment, the Lord is taking you forward. This is not your permanent story. That may be all you can see right now but this is not your story….put your anchor down deep into the Lord and you will be ok.”
What’s important? What’s not important? AND who or what am I putting my hope into.
No matter where you are, the Lord will never leave you and pain and suffering will not be your permanent story.
Suffering was not Eileen’s permanent story either. I miss Eileen so much that it aches and the London girls feel like we’ve lost a body part. Yet, there is such reassurance in knowing God’s ultimate plan is to take us out of this broken world and to Him so that suffering and pain are not our permanent story. There is freedom in knowing that I don’t have to be perfect and my hope is secure when I put my anchor down deep with Him.
I am equipped by my friend and teacher and I know that Eileen would want me to get back on this website and write to you.
So here I am.
Eileen Corrigan Lonergan
August 24, 1966 – October 31, 2018