My heart is a tangled mess of old and new emotions today. Because of something that happened forty or so years ago.
It’s easy to write about when I was a good person, and although it’s not easy to write about my hurts, it’s easier than this. So much easier. Although it’s never far away, this memory came back to me loud and clear on a recent walk around Silver Lake.
When I was a child, there were times when I was seriously naughty, strong-willed, and stubborn. I could talk back, tell a lie, or stomp my foot – fast! As a pre-schooler, if I had a choice between doing something that would lead to a spanking, I often chose the spanking.
Have you ever wished you could erase a moment in your life away? And out of the heart you hurt? I do.
Her name was Diane. She was always the underdog. The bullied one. I remember standing in the gym or on the playground beside her at team picking time. She and I were never the team captains, but she was the next to the last picked for the teams because at least she could hit small white balls and run. I couldn’t so she was chosen before me. It was the only time she wasn’t last. Part of me hated that for her. Sometimes I’d hide and cry for her – it got that nasty.
Through the years, I tried, but I wasn’t always kind to her either. I went to her house a few times to play Barbies, and a few times, we met at the park to swing, but it didn’t go well because she was so terribly angry and carrying a burden of pain I couldn’t imagine or understand. In those times of trying, she did the only thing she knew to do – she gave me what she got. Her mom would gently send me home in tears for both of us.
I don’t remember all the details of the day, but a single icy moment stands out crystal clear. Somehow several of us girls from school were playing in the park on a wintery Saturday afternoon. Even Diane. She and I had enjoyed an especially fun time together. Then, it happened. Without warning one of the girls challenged us all to make ice-balls and throw them at Diane. At the same time. Someone handed me one, and I figured since I was a terrible thrower, I’d miss her by a mile and could be done. On the count of three, four things happened. Diane and I looked into each other’s eyes, that the hard-packed ball of ice left my mittened hand, and it hit her hard in the eye, and we both burst into tears.
In shame and sorrow, I ran home as fast as I could. I stumbled in the back door, a mess of slush, snot, and jumbled words. As quick as I could, I told on myself. I couldn’t bear the guilt alone. Mom cleaned me up and took me to Diane’s house to apologize. We walked there in silence, but she held my hand. Her mom answered, but Diane wouldn’t come anywhere near me. Who could blame her? Not me. So I said I was sorry to her mom – I said it loud because I knew the girl hiding behind the door could hear me. And I needed her to hear me. I needed all of heaven and earth to hear me.
Even after apologizing the burden of my action, was heavy in my heart.
Monday, the other girls, met me outside the school building. Word was already out that my mom knew, and they told me if I told on them, I’d get a lot worse than Diane had and that they’d hate me forever.
She came into our classroom a little bit late with a banged up eye, scrapes on both cheeks, and other bruises on her face. I put my head down on my desk. That swollen black, purple, green, yellow eye was from me.
The principal called me to his office, and when I got there, my mom and her mom were also there. Although the cruel incident had happened after school hours and off the school property, it was still sort of a school issue.
When the principal asked me what had happened, I told him I’d thrown the ice ball that injured Diane’s eye. When he asked me who else was there, I was silent. He asked again and again. Finally, I looked into his eyes and told him I wasn’t going to tell him who else was there. I admitted again that it was my fault she had a black eye and that I’d hurt her, and I was very sorry, but I wouldn’t tattle, and I couldn’t be sorry for what someone else had done to her. He wanted more from me, but my mom and hers agreed with me.
Diane and I didn’t see a lot of each other after that although we went to the same middle school (junior high back in the day). I never forgot what I’d done, but even after I came to Jesus, and told almost everyone I knew about my salvation, there was one person I didn’t tell. Diane. She still lived a few blocks away. I thought about taking that walk and convinced myself that someday I would. But I didn’t. I told myself I had all the time in the world.
Life got busy with church, family, work, friends, and a boy named Jon DeKok. In the quiet moments of life, I still thought about her, and wished that I’d been braver and kinder that day and every day she’d suffered. I confessed those sins to Jesus, and I prayed for her, but stayed off her front steps.
That boy asked me to marry him, and I said yes. On the way to Lake City to celebrate with his parents, we saw a car in a ditch completely engulfed in flames. Firefighters and the ambulance crew stood around helpless to help whoever was in that car. It was a gruesome scene. I didn’t know it that night, but it was Diane.
Suddenly, there was no more time. It was too late to walk to her house. Too late to try to be friends again. Worst of all, it was too late to tell her about Jesus.
I saw her mom a few years after her death and apologized again for everything. She offered me grace and told me I’d been one of the nicest people in Diane’s life. That still makes my heart ache to this day. Because I know, I could have been nicer. I could have been her real friend. I could have said I was sorry to her face again. I could have told her about Jesus.
I will always regret that moment in the park and all the moments I could have had and didn’t. Because they might have mattered. Because Jesus loved her and I never told her. Because I let time slip away until there wasn’t anymore.
When that ice ball left my hand, I didn’t feel a surge of power, or excitement, or pleasure. Instead, I instantly knew how cruel my decision was, and I felt ugly and evil. I didn’t think she was stupid the way the kids who bullied me did, but I knew I’d just done one of the dumbest, meanest things of my life.
Instead of saying no, the scaredy-cat bully in me threw an ice-ball at her. Because I thought I couldn’t hit anything even if I tired, for some reason that day I couldn’t miss her.
I’m forgiven by God, and her mom, but still, I wish…you know? Somethings just can’t be undone. Or unremembered. Or unregretted.
Until Next Time,