A few years back, my husband and I decided to seek out a new house of worship.
We visited a few churches and ended up choosing one in Conyngham.
After attending services there for a couple of weeks, we decided that the best way to get to know people and make friends was to join a small group which is much like a Bible study group.
A few weeks later, we found ourselves sitting at a dining room table in a room full of complete strangers ready to study and grow in our understanding of the scriptures.
It was quite a large and lovely home and our hosts, Gary, Leigh and their three sons were most hospitable.
From the moment we introduced ourselves, we felt very welcome and were made to feel as if we had been friends for years.
Over the course of our small group studies, we shared very intimate details of our lives with each other.
We laughed together, cried together, rejoiced together and prayed for each other.
It was so very comforting to know that we each had another "brother" or "sister" who was always there for us to lean on or to lift us up whenever we had a need.
We grew very fond of Gary and Leigh and enjoyed spending time with them.
A little over a year ago, we found a church closer to home and after much consideration, we made the decision to switch churches once again.
The move was bittersweet, and I knew that I would very much miss all of the people who had become regular fixtures in my life.
Time passes and life happens.
We visited our old church a couple of times, but for some reason, things felt awkward for reasons I just don't understand.
I've come across pictures on occasion and enjoyed reminiscing about the times we spent with our friends there.
However, on Tuesday, while poking around on Facebook, I came across a post that completely rocked me.
My friend, Leigh, had passed away after battling an illness.
I had to read the post several times before I could fully come to terms with what it said.
Then I wept.
I wept for the pain she suffered during her illness. I wept for the husband, children and other family members she left behind.
Then I wept for not being the "friend" that I should have been by keeping in touch with her over the past year.
I would have liked to be able to pray with her and encourage her when she felt afraid, or sick. I would have liked to be able to ease some of her burdens, if possible, or to be silly and make her laugh.
But mostly, I would have liked to have had the opportunity to let her know how much her hospitality and friendship had meant to me when we first started coming to that church and to her home.
I would have told her that I loved the way she laughed and the way she would close her eyes and sing her heart out in church.
I would have told her that I admired her for choosing to home school her children and for her dedication in reaching out to and praying for others.
Unfortunately, I waited too long and now I am feeling a haunting sting of regret.
People come in and out of our lives all of the time. Some are there for the duration.
Each affects us in one way or another, leaving their mark, good or bad.
If we look close enough, we can learn something from every person who touches our lives; something that we can carry with us in the days that follow.
In her life, as well as in her passing, Leigh has taught me the true meaning of friendship.
The ball is now in my court.
Thank you, Leigh.