This is my dear, precious, best, bosom friend, Anna. In this picture we are juniors or seniors in high school, squeezing each other in the frigid football stands of a marching band competition. She played the piccolo, I played the clarinet.
And here we are with our other sister-friend, Rachel, around age 4 or 5. Anna would still rock those gold shoes and wacky hair bow today. Shamelessly.
Anna has been my friend since my memory begins. We were neighbors, children together, up on Chestnut Mountain. Way out in the boonies where no one else was. We slid down rocky creeks in just our Hanes Her Ways and picked blackberries along the road that was cut through the woods on our mountain. We swam in the muddy lake and got stung by yellow jackets in the summer. Our playground was a seemingly endless forest with fabled bobcats (often heard but never seen) and maybe even a bear or two.
She was home schooled for some of her elementary years and then joined me in 5th grade at our little public school. It absolutely made my year that my best friend was going to be in my class. We were inseparable into middle school.
Middle school. As tragic as middle school is by itself, Anna also endured the loss of her mother to cancer. Carol was a beautiful, gregarious, welcoming, and artistic woman. It was devastating. Anna spent many nights with our family during that time, some of which I would wake to her crying. An awkward seventh grader myself, I would have no clue what to say. My mom was alive.
With our mamas, Anna and Carol on the right.
In late high school, boyfriends and youthful indiscretion (read that: underaged drinking of cheap beer) distanced us. Anna pursued the artistic gifts from her mom through photography. I pursued shallow popularity. A really cool thing happened, though. On the very last day of our senior year, it was like all of that had never happened. We fell right back in step. That tends to happen with true friends.
On Senior Day.
We continued on into different colleges, but remained very close. Anna obtained a degree in black and white photography and then another in art history. I chose elementary education. She was there for me when I finally realized the futility of partying and when I transferred schools because I just wanted to come home.
She was there when I remembered Jesus. She was there to affirm that, yes, he is in fact the greatest in all of existence. And that's not to say she didn't have her own struggles with God. Her faith was deeper. Her's was wrought out of anger when he took her mom. The pain that she felt as a middle schooler, I have yet to experience.
She was there when I met Jim. She was there in the tiny apartment that we shared, already crying happy tears as I walked in the door because she knew he had proposed that day. She stood beside me on my wedding day as my maid of honor, holding my 800 pound bouquet of lilies and roses.
I watched her, in proud awe, as she boarded a plane to study art in Italy. She came home a different person, worldly-wise and fresh with adventure. Her strength, independence, and bravery are some of her greatest attributes.
She shed more happy tears when I announced that I was pregnant with James. She stood outside the delivery room and was one of the first in to see us.
She remains one of his favorite people.
So when we found out that we were pregnant with a girl, we began the daunting task of choosing a name. (It was easy with James Walker Thompson the Fifth, for Pete's sake). But then, all of the sudden, it became clear. Of course she should be called Anna.
My beautiful friend.
Anna is now finishing her graduate work in seminary to become a counselor. She has traveled to the Dominican Republic to serve others and regularly helps the needy in her area. She still loves the arts, but wants to be able to help people who are hurting. She is kind. Compassionate. Selfless.
Strength and dignity are her clothing and she smiles at the future... and I pray that our Anna will follow in her footsteps.