I could see the lights of houses, twinkling in the distance as we rounded the Point of the Mountain. The little white car's enging purred, kitten-like, as Cathy drove along the Wasatch front. One hand on the steering wheel, the other always seemed on the move . . . from the gear stick to the air to help tell a story, or to motion to something I should see out the window. She kept up a steady monologue, reeling off story after story with relish. And I loved listening to her. Cathy loved life with an intensity belied by her ability to brush off just about anything negative. She made the best of things, often with some cackling sarcasm, and she had always been a stalwart friend, even though she was old enough to be my mother.
Cathy was taking me home after a night out. She had picked me up at the Salt Lake City airport in the late afternoon, and had taken me out to dinner and then to the grocery store. "D'you need any pit polish?" she had asked in her matter-of-fact, dryly humorous voice. Now, I listened to her tell a story I had heard her tell the last time she had given me a drive home; about traveling to visit friends in the South, punctuated with bits of advice on how to travel without as much baggage as she'd seen me pack into her trunk. "I only need an overnight bag with a change of clothes and a Sunday dress when going to visit family or friends. They have a washer & dryer, and they all use shampoo and soap, after all," she'd say.
On our way down the hill, past the place where Thanksgiving Point would later be built, she told me the story of the last time she brought me home at night . . . how the snow was falling so thick you couldn't see, and how they closed the Point of the Mountain right after her car went by. She had followed the snow plow's and a police car's flashing lights all the way up and over, singing the same snatch of the Primary Song, I Am a Child of God, over and over to try to stay calm because she couldn't remember any more of the words. And yet she laughed and laughed as she told me, and I laughed, too.
Tonight I'm thinking about what if's. What if Cathy hadn't died in her early 50's from congestive heart failure, a complication of diabetes? What if I could have convinced her that if she would only break her lifelong rule of never eating anything green? What if? What if?
She would have seen her 13 year old daughter grow up. She would have been around for grandchildren. She could have met my children, and gotten to see how my life has turned out. I would still be able to pick up the phone and see how she was doing, hear all of the gossip from the little California town where I grew up going to church with her, and listen to her latest adventures in travel.
I miss my friend.
But one thing I have definitely learned: I will not allow time to steal away from me the opportunities I have to include loved ones in my life. I miss Cathy. I pray that God will allow her to know that. And I pray that I will remember it, so I won't let precious days slip past without calling a friend.