By Rev. Dr. Linda Hollies
I don’t really remember just how my oldest and dearest friend, Barbara Jean Baker Vinson VanBuren and I met. It’s been over fifty years ago! We met at Lincoln Elementary School in Gary, Indiana. She lived in the projects on one side of the school, just beyond the sand dunes. I lived on the other side of the school in a new house that one of my father’s friends had helped him buy after my first born brother had been released from the hospital, suffering pneumonia as we had lived in a cold basement apartment! Mr. Montgomery and my father both worked in the Gary Works Steel Mills, as did Barbara’s father, Mr. Edwin Baker. I was the oldest of eight children and Barbara was in the middle of her family’s seven children. We hooked up in grade school and continued our relationship through graduation at Froebel High School in 1961. Oh, how the years have flown! For I can remember when…..
We got married around the same time. We had our children around the same time. We went out clubbing together. We started work around the same time. She followed her father’s role and chose to go to Barber College. I went to work in a woman’s speciality shop as a stock room clerk. BB had two older sisters who had gone to nursing school in the days when nurses wore white starched dresses and those little caps on their heads. BB’s two younger sisters followed the tradition of nursing also. But, my girlfriend wanted her independence and eventually opened her own shop. Neither one of us had college in our mind. We were married, with children and doing fine, thank you very much. Then, we got divorced around the same time! We were godmothers’ to each others children and how we talked about the disappointments of our lives. I decided to stop clubbing and go to college. The rest is history and Mista Chuck doesn’t feel that I’ll ever stop seeking additional education.
Our friendship remained a constant source of renewal, refreshment and memories as we re-married, had other children and continued to dream a new and better world. BB had a second son, twenty-four years ago, Bernard Vinson, and he was in distress at birth, followed by the news that his kidneys were too small and he had a heart attack. Life took a curve on us. We’d never aanticipated sick children. When Bernie was about twelve, BB gave him one of her kidneys. Then, her spouse was diagnosed with cancer and died. Our parents begin to die around the same time! It was ironic. Today, my parents are buried in the graves that BB and her first husband had bought together! My mother had been so upset with my father’s death that she bought his gravesite without going to view it. The day of the funeral, the grave was too close to a water site for my mother, and BB pointed out a nicer section of the cemetery to my mom and that was it! Barbara is that kind of friend.
Three years ago, BB was dreaming of retirement, selling the shop and having the chance to travel with Bernie who lives at home. The week before Thanksgiving, she left her shop one night to go shopping and noticed that one foot felt "asleep." Going to another store, she had to lift that foot out of the car. She decided that it was best to stop shopping and to drive home. When she arrived home, she had to use the cell phone to have someone call an ambulance, she was paralyzed up to her waist! My friend has spent way too much time in hospitals and doctor’s offices in these past years. The shop was sold. Bernies’ kidney has failed and he’s back on dialysis three times a week. And, my friend, BB, needs help and assistance to even pull herself up into a sitting position. It’s been a living hell.
One night I called her to talk and she told me, "I was just turning out my light. I was going to practice dying! I know that if I try hard enough, I can die!" Oh, the conversation we had that night cannot be detailed here. For I’d been her Matron of Honor, a few months prior, when from her wheelchair, she had agreed to become the wife of Rev. Herman D. VanBuren! He had gotten down on aged, arthritic knees and vowed to love her, to honor her and to keep her, in her sickness and in her health! And, she wanted to "practice dying"! I didn’t think so! I took her hindpart straight to Jesus!
The story of the paralyzed man brought to Jesus by four of his friends, hits real close to home for me. BB was in a hospital in Chicago, and I was in bed in Grand Rapids, as we talked by phone. But, I took my corner of her "mat" and begin to drag her to The Throne of Grace! I can’t imagine how she faces each day, not able to do the things that she’s been so accustomed to doing on her own. I have no clue what she feels like, not being able to travel, to go to the mall, alone, or to get up and decide where she wants to drive herself. I wish that I could have gathered three other friends of ours and walked right up to the house where Jesus set and put my oldest and dearest friend in front of him. For, whatever helped BB needed, God knows I wanted and continue to want to give her! The best that I could and can do is to hold Barbara Jean in my heart, to continue to keep her in my prayers and to remind God about my friend and her needs.
BB’s birthday is in June. It’s proper and it’s right that I share our love story with you today. We went to visit her, in the hospital again, last month. She has a bed sore that refuses to heal properly. She can look out of her hospital room and see her home, across the way, but she can’t walk out on her own. I’m here. Mista Chuck is here. Rev. Herman is there. But, we’re yet short a fourth friend to help carry BB up to Jesus. Will you become our fourth friend? Will you join us in praying that another miracle is performed on her behalf? Will you accept the responsibility of carrying her weight as we seek to climb upon a roof, tear it up and place her directly in the sight of the miracle working Savior? For only God knows just how sincerely I want her to hear the words of the memory verse for the week: Barbara Jean, "I say to you, stand up, take up your mat, and go to your home." (Mark 2: 11) Oh, what a day of rejoicing that will be! Will you become friend number four?
There are people with human problems all around us. Are there three other people you are willing to meet with for prayer and the meeting of needs in your area? The four friends knew that alone, neither of them would be very effective, but when the four of them got together, great risks were taken for amazing results! Jesus Christ is the same today, as yesterday! Where are your three other friends?
On the journey with ya! Let’s live holy; laugh often; and let’s love with flair and with extravagance! Shalom Friend! Sista Linda
WomanSpace: 820 Monroe, NW Suite 323
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503
Saving Sisters, one woman at a time!
Join us! Shalom!
Saving Sisters, one woman at a time! Join us! Shalom!