“This is the life,” says a page of my photo album, surrounded by photos of grassy sand, a cute lighthouse, the white capped waves on Lake Michigan and my cousin and I.
“When Anita was still teaching in Oklahoma,” I wrote, “she called me and we agreed to spend a day after we were both done with school. On May 20, we went to Lake Michigan. We found an empty beach all to ourselves at Point Beach State Forest. We set up our camping chairs, ate our Subway subs, and then relaxed for the rest of the afternoon…reading, resting, eating Anita’s Twizzlers. It was so awesome!”
It was “the life”, in a care-free way. We bought matching sandals, explored Appleton, and ate a nice meal in the evening. However, we discussed the insecurities of life too–the hurts we experienced, the struggles of being a school teacher, the guys we liked who we didn’t like us, and the insecurities of trying to figure life out.
Anita and I never got to spend a lot of time together, but when we did, we caught up quickly. In the meantime, we would send each other Christmas cards and announcements. A few photo album pages later, I find a shot from Anita’s time at a Romanian orphanage, practicing being a mother.
In October 2008, when I was beginning my quest for a nursing degree, I went on a road trip to Oklahoma for Anita’s wedding where she married Kendall Miller. Their wedding program said, “As for God, his way is perfect.”
In 2011, the year I graduated from nursing school, Anita sent me an announcement for the birth of her first son Cole.
In 2015, her family photo had two little boys in a red wagon on a beautiful fall day.
Last summer, she sent me a photo of a new little guy named Trey Hudson, clad in green, orange, and blue. Around his tiny wrist, a white band was fastened with the words “Miller, Anita” so no one would get confused who he belonged to. Under the photo, Anita text “PTL I feel amazing and Trey is doing well!”
Last October, Anita was reading my book Voices of Syria, and text me to tell me she was enjoying the book, always good news to an author. “It gives me the urge to help somehow!” she added, “but with a baby right now…I’m not sure that’s an option. We are doing well also! Life continues to be busy as ever with 3 boys but we are healthy and so blessed!”
“Well,” I replied to her, “what you’re doing is not a little thing either. I’m sure your boys will pick up on your heart… and you never know where their lives will take them!”
Last February, I sent her a photo of Marnell and I at Cappy’s. Later this summer, I told her that we were engaged, but it wasn’t public yet. We missed each other when they visited Indiana in the summer at the same time I went to Pickle Lake with Marnell. We began to text back and forth about whether or not they would make it to our wedding, which of course had landed on a day they already had a wedding to go to.
Then last night, my sister sent me a forward from Anita’s family: “Please pray for…Kendall and Anita…their little boy fell in the pond and isn’t responding. They are afraid he won’t make it. He’s only 1.”
Not long after, I received the news that confirmed his death.
What we didn’t know, there on the sand along Lake Michigan!
Love and prayers for Kendall, Anita, Cole &AJ.
~in memory of the short life of Trey Hudson, and in honor of his mother, my cousin and friend~