I used to go over to Claire's house in yoga pants and with the craziest bun on top of my head. We would walk in the door without knocking, say hi to the girls, including Winnie the Great Dane, and then I wander through their gorgeous home to the kitchen: Claire always had a French Vanilla latte--bowl sized--ready-made when I arrived. She has a sixth sense about when to turn on the Nespresso.
At Claire's house, there were always toys on the floor. Everywhere. She would not mind my telling you this because, for her, it is a point of pride. And for me, it was the marker of a safe zone. My kids could call this place second-home and run wild with their friends. In fact, Claire's house is so safe, I would go with nothing. No snacks. No diaper bags. No water cups. "Use mine. Leave that at home," she would say. So, at my house, Lucy and Iris would simply share their water, and at Claire's house the girls knew which shelf held special forks and spoons for them to use at lunch.
Claire is basically a gourmet chef. If the play date was at my house, I made sure to have a box of mac and cheese on-hand; but if the play date was at Claire's house, she would literally prepare a feast. I might remark on how unbalanced this was and she would scold me. "It's my joy. Don't take my joy from me."
We would let the kids stay up past nap time if they were playing well. We'd brew second coffees. Then I'd curl up and sink back into Claire's enormous couch and I would simply bask in her presence. What a selfish friend I am! But just to be near her invigorated me! Revived me! Set something right in my soul.
Claire is what you call a walking testimony, and if you know her story, you know that's quite literally true. She's sharing her story right now, on a new blog--it would be your privilege to read her words. She's bared her soul and told of how she beat cancer twice and how she's overcome addiction and how she's made peace with being human.
When I meet the Lord someday, I think he's going to tell me that Claire was actually an angel on earth. That's what knowing her is like. But Claire would think that's a funny thing to say because she's been through so much and still finds the good in being human.
All Claire wants out of life is to share the truth of Redemption.
And maybe that's what I miss the most--just to be near her and to feel it running off of her and how good it felt to cry for no reason other than that until I walked through her door, I'd been striving for an unattainable perfection, and then she'd hand me that oversized coffee mug and hug me tight and cuss when she dropped something on the floor and just glow with the actual love of Christ.
On a day that's hard, I think of Claire. And not because I need to compare my pale problems to what she's overcome. She would scold me for that too: "Your pain is your pain." But instead I think about how she calls things out, face value, no holds barred; and then she stops, takes a deep breath, and says, "God loves us so much."
Claire has about 13,891 talents. Not just things she's good at; things she does expertly.
One of these things are her beautiful floral arrangements. She used to cut plants from her garden or ours and then she would make professional bouquets for us as gifts--again, because it is her joy. When we moved to New York, it was a parting almost without tears. It was like her soul was talking to my soul without us actually saying the words, and she knew to come was what I needed. (I'm convinced she communes with God in a way that most of us don't. He probably let her in on His secrets for our life here.) She smiled as we walked down the path from her house, through the gate, for the last foreseeable time (thank the Lord I've since been back!). She said, "Send me photos of the florist shops. Think of me whenever you see a pretty window!"
Oh, Claire, I do. I think, "Claire would love this." And then when I snap the photo, I think, "God loves us so much."