From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

The Swing

Many people will walk in and out of your life. But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Meg, Katie and I sat rocking on the swing on Meg’s front porch. Because Katie had the longest legs, it was her job to keep us moving with a gentle push every now and then. Today, our swinging was sporadic. Katie was caught up in Meg’s description of the heart surgery she would undergo in two days.

“The doctors say now is the best time,” Meg explained. “I’ve grown all I’m going to, I’m healthy and they don’t want to wait any longer. The walls of my aorta are weakening every day.”

Katie and I listened quietly. We’d always known that one day Meg would have heart surgery, but we weren’t prepared for it to happen this summer. We were having too much fun.

Katie and I had always known Meg was different. She often complained about the way her eyes protruded from her head and about the extra-thick glasses she wore. We teased her about her slightly bucked front teeth, lovingly calling her “Bugs” after Bugs Bunny. But we never teased her about her heart condition. Meg’s family had known from her birth that one day she would require an operation. Now, the day had come.

Meg went shopping with her mom the next day, so Katie and I didn’t see her until late. We sat on the porch swing, each of us lost in our own thoughts. When Meg’s dad called her in, I hugged her tightly. “I’ll be praying for you,” I said.

“Thanks,” she replied with a smile. “Pray for the doctors, too.” We all laughed. Meg’s remark had broken the tension.

I didn’t sleep very well that night, so it was late when I got up the next morning. I went outside for some fresh air and looked down the row of houses to Meg’s. I saw her dad and brother with their arms around each other.

They’re home early, I thought. I went in the house just as the phone rang. It was Katie.

“Teresa, I have terrible news.”

I could tell she was crying. My heart sank.

“Meg died,” Katie said flatly. “When the doctors touched her aorta, it was so weakened, it just dissolved. She died on the operating table.”

I was in shock. “Katie, I’ll talk to you later,” I said, and hung up the phone. As I headed for my room, I passed my mom in the hall.

“Any news on Meg?” she asked.

I shook my head, still too stunned to tell anyone the news. I didn’t want to believe it. I shut my door and lay down on my bed.

It can’t be true, I told myself. Meg can’t be dead. Katie heard wrong. It was some other girl who died. Meg will call and tell me everything’s okay.

As the hours stretched on, I knew Katie was right—but I couldn’t admit it. I heard Katie’s mom call mine to tell her the news. When my mom knocked on my door, I told her to go away. “I want to be alone,” I pleaded.

On the way to the funeral home, I kept telling myself that Meg was okay. But when I walked into the room with my parents and saw Meg lying there, reality hit. My friend was dead. I walked over to the casket and looked at Meg’s peaceful face. She looked like she could jump up any minute and ask why everyone was so sad, but she didn’t. Meg was dead.

I cried hot, angry tears. I couldn’t understand why Meg had died, and I was mad at God for allowing it to happen. The world is full of horrible people. Why didn’t you take one of them? Why did you have to take the sweetest, kindest person I know?

God didn’t give me any easy answers. At Meg’s funeral, her pastor read John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

I knew Meg was a Christian, and I was comforted by the fact that she was promised eternal life. As the days passed, I drew on God’s promises for those who believe in him. Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them in heaven. I knew that included a mansion for Meg. I missed Meg terribly, but I could feel my anger lessening.

One evening several weeks later, Katie and I were walking when we found ourselves heading for Meg’s front porch. We sat on the swing, both uncomfortably aware of the space between us.

“I miss Meg,” Katie said as she gave a push.

“Me, too,” I replied placing my hand on the empty seat. “But you know,” I told Katie with a smile, “Bugs will have perfect teeth in heaven.”

Katie laughed. “You’re right, and she can’t complain about her eyes or her thick glasses anymore!”

“And no heart defect . . .”

The front door opened and Meg’s mom came out. “I thought I heard someone,” she said. “I was hoping you girls would stop by. Please keep using the porch swing. Meg’s dad put it up for the three of you, and we hate to see it empty.”

“We’ll be back,” we promised.

“No heart defect,” Katie said with wonder, as our swinging resumed.

We scooted together, closing the space that had separated us. “Do you suppose there are porch swings in heaven?” Katie asked.

“I’m sure of it,” I said firmly. “And I’m sure Meg will be saving us a place on one when we get there.”

Teresa Cleary

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