I became friends with Lorri Murphy when my oldest and her youngest were both three. We were a good fit for each other. She needed my intensity and I needed her flair. I wanted someone a little older and farther along in life with mothering experience. She wanted someone who was driven by the same principles she was, and had the drive to made those principles reality. At the heart, we wanted the same things. So a beautiful friendship was born.
We began to homeschool together in our own little co-op, joined by a few others who shared our faith and vision – Katherine, then Meegan, and later Tatiana. We just had the pleasure of graduating that first class the past two Junes. Thirteen plus years of weekly school days, field trips, planning days, and just plain playdates lets you get to know a few things about a person. Lorri was kind. She understood people. She got me. And I am sometimes hard to get. Lorri loved people deeply – she loved them and their messy issues. I often hold messy people at arm’s length. She taught me to look beyond the mess. That is compassion and it is Lorri’s hallmark.
Lorri had an eagle eye. She spotted the runners – those kids that run outside the boundaries of the playground. She happily snuggled the babies while we taught the older kids. Lorri sat with the naughty ones. She worked with the kids until they created something they were proud of. She bought the coolest birthday gifts. Lorri was always went out looking beautiful – her nails, hair and makeup done to a T.
I was the taskmaster that drove us further and harder in educating our children. Lorri was the fun. She organized the holiday celebrations and the art. We didn’t always prioritize the same things. We even got frustrated with each other at times. But who wants a friend that is exactly like them? I am the oldest in my family. I have no big sister. Lorri was like a big sister that went through everything before me. Graduating a child, becoming a mother-in-law and a grandmother, menopause, and relating to your adult children – I learned so much about life from her. It was made all the more humorously poignant when I got pregnant with my youngest, a more than a decade gap between her and the next kid – just like Lorri did. Turns out that Lorri prayed for me to have that baby. My youngest kid and her youngest grandkid are the same age.
We joined Lorri’s drama group, and my girls loved the stage. I wanted to teach the kids Shakespeare. She wanted them to have fun. Of course, fun always wins out in a democracy. Every child got a part, a chance to shine. It was painful sometimes, but every child left her group with stage time and the confidence that grows with that. Running a drama group can be pretty thankless. There are only a few main parts and almost every kid wants that part – and almost every parent thinks their kid deserve that part. Lorri handled the disappointments with grace and charm. I would have had a few choice words for the complainers. She made far more friends than enemies. She was loving and that was her trademark.
After years of co-oping together Lorri encountered major health issues. After cancer, surgeries, and head trauma she wasn’t able to join us on a weekly basis. But she faithfully came for every St. Patrick’s Day celebration to continue the tradition that she started a decade before – making homemade limeade with the kids. Always the fun. But no matter, by that time she was a part of our family celebrations and milestones – birthdays, weddings, baby showers.
After she graduated her last one we were supposed to start a ministry for moms. We had plans. And now I have to go it alone. Lorri left me this past Wednesday. Not only me, of course – her loyal husband, the three sons she adored, the three grandbabies that were constantly on her heart and mind, so many who loved her. Not that she meant to leave anyone. I don’t get it. I may never. It is one of those things that I trust God will explain when I get to heaven. Along with why He chose to take my mom home at 45 years old, and my dad less than two weeks before Lorri.
Our co-op, though still going strong, will not be the same. Lorri left an indelible mark on all of us. My older girls grew up with Lorri and she had plans for them, too. My little one is here, at least partly, because of Lorri’s faith. Today we will all get together and remember her life. And we will leave with a hole in our hearts. We are devastated, but still we cling to hope. We are hard pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair. The next time I see Lorri I get to see her without pain, in perfect form. That is something I have never seen, and am excited to see. Her suffering on earth, from a childhood that would have broken a lesser person to the head injury she was just starting to really recover from, was constant, though she rarely complained. She must be loving that feeling!
Lorri, hug my parents for me. Kiss my miscarried babies. And until we meet again, dear friend, I will keep my promise to you.
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