It’s not often one loses two close friends in less than two weeks. Just ten days after my friend Christine had crossed the valley of the shadow of death, I received more sad news. Unlike Christine’s passing – Leanne’s death was totally unexpected. Leanne was only 43 – far too young to die. On Wednesday, March 5th, Leanne had gone to sleep and not woken up. And so, like my friend Christine, Leanne too has crossed the valley of the shadow of death and is on the other side. Where there is no more sickness or sadness or pain. Where the love of God can be experienced without earth’s shadows clouding it. Today I grieve for my friend Leanne. I thank God for her beautiful friendship. I thank God for her life. And I thank God that she is now at peace.
When we were new in Australia, our then pastor and his wife, Jeff and Wendy had a meal with us. As they were leaving that night, Jeff asked me ‘If there is one thing you could do what would it be?” I responded without hesitation ‘I'd love to Write’. Jeff promptly wrote down a name and address on a piece of paper and gave it to me ‘Leanne’s also a writer. Why not correspond with her?”
The next morning I sent Leanne an email. She replied immediately. I wrote her another email. And another. And another…..! In fact, that year, 1999, I wrote to her every single day; sometimes many times a day. Very quickly, Leanne became my first Australian friend. It may sound strange that although I’ve known Leanne for 15 years, I’ve met her in person only 3 or 4 times. The truth was that it didn’t matter at all. Ours was an email friendship. It was nevertheless a deep and lasting one. When two Christian writers write to one another – there is a wonderful heart to heart connection; a friendship that's sealed for all time.
Today, I apologise to my blog readers for writing two blogs in sequence that speak of death and loss. It certainly wasn’t part of my plan. I was about to post my weekly blog (which I’d written earlier in the week) when I received the shocking news of Leanne’s sudden and untimely death. I knew then that I had to write another tribute - in Leanne’s memory this time. Leanne was a close friend who'd got even closer in the last little while. She told me often that she loved my blog and that she'd never fail to read it every Monday. I hope she’ll be smiling brightly when I post a blog in her honour today. Leanne is today’s star!
Leanne’s legacy to me was love. Like scrumptious icing on a cake, like a colour-splashed rainbow after rain, like the beaming smile on a loved one’s face – Leanne's friendship was one to be savoured. She made sure I knew she loved me. I was deeply warmed by her affection. There was a transparency and acceptance in her friendship that was very endearing. When I went through a tough season, Leanne took it on herself to be my guardian and prayer warrior. She asked questions. Empathised with me. Prayed for me. Showered me with love. Yes, Leanne’s legacy to me was one of beautiful uncomplicated love.
Very early in our friendship Leanne called me ‘Anu’ and it made me feel closer to her. A few months ago, when I’d signed off one of my emails as ‘Ah Gnu’, she began to call me ‘Gnu’. She loved it that I added “Gnu” to the list at the bottom of my common-to-many-emails. So I continued to do that in order to make her smile. "How are you my Gnu?" she'd ask, warming my heart with her concern.
Leanne gave of herself. Last year, when I was badly in need of encouragement I was comforted and touched by an unexpected gift in the mail. It was one of Leanne’s favourite books. Yet she had parted with her own precious copy of An Alien at St Wilfreds by Adrian Plaas. I don’t think I’d easily part with a favourite book as she did; would you? How unselfish was that! That wasn't all. After my operation this year she wrote saying she planned to send me three more of her books – again her own copies since she couldn’t find them in bookstores. I was deeply touched at her kindess and generosity.
The loving inscription in her precious gift is blurred as I read it now, through my tears.
Yes, Leanne’s gift to me was a legacy of love. She shared herself with me. I will never forget her. The Bible says ‘A friend loves at all times” Proverbs 17:17. Leanne loved me at all times. She was my friend. Leanne loved her family and loved spending times with her Mum. On the night she died - she was to begin attending French classes with her Mum and was so looking forward to it. A few weeks ago, Leanne wrote to me about a friend who had difficulties at work and asked me to intercede for him. Her concern for and appreciation of her friends was deeply moving.
Thank you Leanne for having been a unique and special presence in my life. I will miss you very much. Till I rejoice with you again in God’s presence – I will celebrate our friendship by living well. By endeavouring to love others the way Jesus asked me to.
By loving others the way you too loved me, dearest Lea.
Rest in peace.
“A new commandment I give unto you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:35