When I was young I had a special friend named Erik. He was a boy friend, not a boyfriend, but I loved him like family. The first time I ever met him, we were eleven years old and he was riding around our town lake on his bicycle, his wiry tanned legs pushing the pedals through the Oregon dust with a ferocity I learned was characteristic to his life approach. He was a scrappy talented kid who could draw and paint as well as dance every Michael Jackson step as well as the King of Pop himself.
Now, I can barely remember when I didn't know him. We have been friends longer than I care to count in years.
Eleven years ago today I was at his wedding, where he married Lisa. They'd met ballroom dancing. I hadn't had the chance to meet her before the wedding, as I was living in Seattle by then and they were in Orange County. I'd seen photos of her and knew she was stunning but it told me nothing of her character. Was this girl good enough for my childhood chum? I hate to admit it, but her physical beauty made me skeptical. I'd like to pretend that was a joke, but the truth is, I sometimes assume that if a woman is beautiful on the outside, it is unlikely she is the same on the inside.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
They had their wedding ceremony at a beautiful Mexican restaurant, decorated for the occasion with luscious tropical flowers and greenery. Sunshine streamed into the outdoor space and it smelled of hibiscus and savory spicy food. When Lisa walked into the room, wedding gown swirling at her feet, Erik began to cry. I did too. She was as beautiful as any bride I'd ever seen, brown hair falling to her shoulders, tanned skin glowing against the white of her gown, a soft smile that reached deep into her eyes.
Later, after the ceremony, she stood in her gown, receiving the well-wishes of her friends and family. I lurked, apart, slightly nervous to bother her on her big day, sure she wouldn't even know who I was or who Erik had been to me. I expected just to say hello quickly and then go find a table to sit. But when I held out my hand, her face lit up, "Oh, you're Tess. Thank you so much for coming. I've heard so much about you." I was shocked. And touched.
At the reception they danced together. Watching them was like something from a movie, the way they moved with elegance and grace, gliding around the floor together in perfect harmony.
The last several years I've gotten to know Lisa better, ironically, because of Facebook. She is a kindred spirit, a kind soul in this world of madness. We're both mommies and wives. And sisters, both to one another, and to our real life brothers.
A year ago she lost her twin brother, David Cox, to cancer. It is said that character can be measured by how we react to tragedy. If that is true, then what I suspected the first day I ever met her is an undeniable fact. She's as beautiful, graceful and strong on the inside as she is on the outside.
What she doesn't say but what I know by reading between the proverbial lines on Facebook, is that she's been a rock to her parents and her brother's family. I am sure they could fill this blog with examples of the giving person she is and will continue to be all the days of her life. What I know for sure is how deeply she's grieved, how big a hole the loss of her twin has been in her life. And yet, she endures.
This Sunday she's running a 1/2 marathon in her brother's honor, and to raise money for Make Cures Happen (click to make a donation - even $1 dollar helps). She is not a runner, he was. He was the athlete, she says. A military man who served his country and God and his family. She tells me she feels him there by her side when she runs, urging her forward, whispering in her ear.
So today, on this ordinary day, I salute Lisa Cox Summers - for her brave soul, her strong heart and tender feet. I thank her for inspiring me to try something harder than I think I can do. And, for showing me that to do something for the love of another is as close to divine as we can come.