I have here a letter from a young woman who will remain anonymous.
“Sean, I’m in a very rough place—the man I love and was supposed to marry ended our engagement and kicked me out of our shared house unceremoniously. A lot of days, it’s hard to see the point in continuing. I don’t know what’s going to happen in my future, and I don’t really want to make it much further into the future these days… But your stories give me something to look forward to every day.”
Well, you’re in luck. Because I have a story for you. This is a story about a young woman I am going to call Becky.
I have known Becky since she was 8 years old. As soon as I received your letter I called Becky for permission to share her story.
Becky and I weren’t close, but we used to be in church choir together. Although, saying we were “in church choir” is laughable, inasmuch as Becky and I would often skip choir practice to catch frogs in the creek and act like hellions while all the nerds were busy learning about obscure Biblical figures such as “Ehud,” and learning how to sing “shape” notes.
Becky was a tomboy. She taught me how to smoke my first cigarette. I’ll never forget it. We were sitting on a rock. She removed a carton of her mother’s Marlboros and I was terrified that we would end up in hell. Becky assured me that smokers didn’t go to hell unless they smoked more than one pack per day.
I choked and gagged and Becky laughed until she almost drowned in her own sputum.
Becky’s mother died when she was 10 years old. The woman fell down a flight of steps and died of a brain injury.
Her father turned into a shell. Immediately. And Becky became unofficial mother to her two brothers. She was always doing adult things like laundry, cooking, and cleaning the baseboards. Truthfully, it was weird seeing someone your own age, a kid, doing housework. But there you are.
A few years later, when Becky was 14, she began keeping company with older boys and she got pregnant.
I’m condensing a lot of stuff here. But the first thing that happened after her pregnancy was that her father—a devout Baptist—kicked his 14-year-old daughter out of the house. Officially, he sent her to live with her aunt, but her aunt was a wretched woman who disliked Becky and smelled of mothballs. The old woman mostly ignored her.
Becky might as well have been an orphan.
She dropped out of school. Her friends disowned her. Her boyfriend denied the baby was his. And whenever anyone brought up Becky’s name in polite company, most people, young and old, just looked at their shoes and changed the subject.
I remember seeing Becky in town once. She was walking the aisles of the supermarket with her aunt, trailing behind the woman like a prisoner of war, head down. Becky’s stomach was large, her shoes were worn, and she looked tired.
“Becky!” I said.
But she wouldn’t acknowledge me.
Becky eventually became so despondent that she tried to end her life. Thankfully, she failed. This landed her into a halfway house for trouble teens.
“The first night at the group home” Becky told me, “the old lady who ran the home asked if I knew that I was loved.”
Becky answered no, she wasn’t loved. Nobody loved her, she said. Not a soul in this world cared. Not even her own family.
She started crying. The old woman cradled the young woman in her arms.
“It’s hard to believe that this all happened when I was still an eighth-grader,” Becky remembers.
“One day, sweetie,” said the old woman, “when these hard times are over, everything you’ve lost will be restored. God will make your latter days even more wonderful than your beginning days.”
Becky moved to Oklahoma and raised her infant in a group home. She went to college online. Currently, she has been married for 22 years. She has four children, a degree in accounting, and her husband is a really great guy except that he cannot stop collecting overpriced guitars from eBay.
I merely bring all this up because Becky has a message for you, whomever you are:
“Tell your friend to hold on,” Becky said, “‘cause even though it hurts, even though you can’t see a way through this, one day when this is over, everything you have lost will be restored by God. Then tripled. Maybe even quadrupled. I don’t know how I know this, but I just do.”
Nevertheless, I feel it is my duty to remind you that this advice comes directly from a person who tried to teach me to smoke cigarettes.