She used to call me “Mikey.” She was the only one who called me “Mikey.” I hated that name from anyone else, but it was great to hear it from her. I knew her since sixth grade. I think it was even then that I called her “Mere.” She lived in my neighborhood, Quail Creek. Kristie Martin and her were my best girl friends growing up. Along with Wayne and Jason, we made a great group of five who reminded me of the group on St. Elmo’s Fire.
Monday I got a call from Jason. “Michael, Meredith is in the hospital and they don’t think she is going to make it.” I can’t explain my response. I had received this same phone call more than a year before. Mere had a drinking problem. I found out about it through another friend. This friend asked me to intervene as everyone was aware that it was getting pretty bad. I am the only pastor in the (now very expanded) group of friends. Meredith moved away to another state before we could talk. She was always moving. For the last eight years, I never knew where she lived. It was not too much longer that I heard that she was in the hospital in this other state (wherever it was). They said she was about to die. Her liver was shutting down. I did not know what to do except wait for the news, hoping for the best. It turns out she pulled through. I talked to her and she told me that she had stopped drinking and was never going to do it again. She promised me and I believed her.
It was probably 1991 when I saved her life. At least that is the way I looked at it. Let me back up some. She had her own apartment. It was quite the party house. All of her places were the party houses. Meredith was the sweetest girl I have ever known. I don’t write that because of the necessity of this blog. I write it because it is the truth. Meredith always had a smile on her face. She was so lovey-dovey. When you were around her, you always knew that you were loved.
She often seemed to be oblivious to what was so obvious to everyone else. This is what made her the butt of many, many jokes and pranks. But she loved it. She knew what she was doing. If it could make people happy and make people laugh, she was willing to suffer such for such a reward.
However, like with so many of us, there was a deep longing and, sometimes, sadness that you knew was there. This night in 1991 I knew something was wrong with her. We all did. I went to her apartment to check on her and no one answered the door. I attempted to look through the patio door, but could not see in due to the blinds. Just before I was about to leave, her cat brushed the blinds just enough for me to see Mere laying on the floor in the living room, without movement. I quickly grabbed a large rock and threw it through the window to discover that Mere had taken a bottle of sleeping pills in an attempt to kill herself. We called the ambulance and she was saved.
I don’t know why you did this. I never really knew. But I do know that there is an instability—a darkness—in and over all of us. There is a front that we put up, that people enjoy, and that we hope is the real us. That front was the real Mere. However, the darkness was there as well.
In 1995 I became her pastor. I was not even a real pastor yet. I was still in that life of fun, drinking, and fun. It was fun, but it was becoming less and less fun all the time. The fun was simply a way to fill the emptiness. It was a transition time for me. I have written about it before in many posts. No need to repeat here. I was becoming more and more committed to Jesus Christ and the hope of his truth. I wanted all of my friends to know and believe that same truth. I talked to Meredith about Christ. I told her that he knows her name and that he died on the cross for her salvation and that she could have eternal life by trusting in him. A week later she called me and told me that she trusted Christ as her savior. At that point, Meredith was born again. I could not have been more excited.
Like so many of us, while the Gospel radically transforms us in our relationship with God, it is not so quick in other areas. Meredith still struggled with many things. But she did not ever again question God’s love for her and her love for him. While my life took me other places, I kept in contact with Meredith. Really, she kept in contact with me. She would call me all the time when she was talking to someone about Jesus and wanted to know what to say. At one point, she moved to Dallas and often attended my class at Stonebriar Community Church. I was her pastor and I was her friend. We talked about the difficulties and she continually drew hope from the Gospel.
Once Jason told me that Meredith was back in the hospital, I thought to myself, “She will be ok. She was last time.” I said to Jason, “Go to the hospital and let me know how things are.” I then received two more phone calls from other friends. It was truly serious. The last call I received was from Wayne. “Michael, it is bad. They are about to take out the tubes or something. If you want to see her before she dies, you have to come now.” “What?” I responded. “That does not make any sense.” I did not want to believe it. I was in denial. I am so ashamed of the next 1.5 hours on Monday night. I told Kristie, my wife, about what was happening. She told me to get up there. I declined. She argued with me and I had an outburst of anger that I rarely have, “I don’t want to go!!!” Where did that come from? I did not want to be her pastor or her friend. I wanted to sleep or something. Escape.
From the time of my outburst until the time I was in the car heading to the hospital, I went through a great struggle. I did not want to do her funeral. I did not want to say a prayer for the family. I did not want to be a Christian. It hurt to bad and I could not be the guy everyone expected me to be.
I have not had the time to reason out why I was like this, but, in the end, my reason returned to me. I headed up to the hospital and got there almost two hours after her death. I came to find out that she had drank again. The doctor told her last time that if she drank again, she would die. She drank again. Maybe once. Maybe she had been doing it for a while and everyone did not know. We don’t know. All we know is that she drank again and she died. Why? I don’t really know. It was one of her struggles, obviously. I certianly understand the emptiness. Even among those of us who know the Light, this emptiness—this darkness—does not always hide and can drive us to do something that is otherwise out of character. This was not her. Not really. Don’t ever think it was.
Thursday, I did the funeral. I have done only four funerals. One of a 29 year old man who died in a home fire. Another of a new born baby. Then my sister Angie’s. Now Mere. As I prepared for the funeral, I placed the notes in my a folder on my computer. I named it “Meredith,” not “Mere.” I don’t know why. After I prepared for the funeral, I saved the file. I saved it to my “funerals” folder. When I saw it in the folder then it began to hit me. Mere is dead.
I have something to say to Mere.
Mere, I know you are with the Lord. Someone on your Facebook page said that you were “now an Angel.” I thought to myself, “Now that is some bad theology. We don’t become Angels. We are in our immaterial existence in the intermediate state awaiting the resurrection of our bodies. We are forever human and never become angels. That is good theology.” However, on second thought, I think that I will modify that bad theology with some bad theology of my own. You already were an angel. You were always my friend and always will be. There is no way to replace you. But most of all, I am sorry that I, your pastor and your friend, was not there while you passed through the darkness. This was the last darkness that you ever experienced—the shadow of death. It is over now, but I should have been there. I would have stroked your hair and told you to get ready to meet Jesus. I would have said I was sorry for the pain and the difficulties that led you to the point where you were. I would have said that I am sorry that I could not save you again. But most of all, I would have assured you of the faith to which we grasp and been in continual prayer with you.
I miss you. I love you. Stare into the face of our Savior. Tell Angie I said hello. I will see you soon.
To Paul, her loving husband and Kristie, her best friend. You are in my prayers.