Most people mean that metaphorically. I mean it literally.
One of my very best friends died in early September. I wrote a tribute to her HERE. While she’d been not doing well, it was still sudden. For about a month, as strange as it sounds, I’d forget she was gone. Her death just didn’t seem real.
Even now, almost three months later, I find myself mindlessly reaching to text her or message her when something happens—both good and bad.
I always knew that her time on this earth was most likely limited. But I didn’t dwell on it. It was something I pushed to the back of my mind to deal with later. In fact, she and I made jokes about it on a regular basis—jokes that others probably thought were horribly insensitive or wildly inappropriate but made us cackling like hyenas.
You can’t be afraid of something you laugh at, right?
About a month ago, her husband asked me if I’d like her any of her shoes. I’ll be honest, it was weird going through them and stacking the boxes up like I was at some big sale, and it felt somehow wrong.
When the boxes were stacked up by the door, her 3-year-old son asked if we needed to go to Fed Ex.
When I got home, I piled the boxes up in a spare room and then studiously ignored them for a couple of weeks.
Inside, I knew not looking at them wouldn’t change the fact she was gone. In my head, I could hear her voice telling me not to be stupid and to wear the shoes already.
So, one by one, I opened the boxes. Many of the shoes were hardly worn. A few hadn’t been worn at all.
Looking at those new-ish or never worn shoes made me sad because they were a testament to how sick she had been for the past several years. Getting dressed up and going out often took more energy than she had available. I put the lids back on and the pile sat there for another week.
Then I went out with a new-ish friend last weekend. The camel-colored ankle boots that were in one of those boxes were the perfect complement to my outfit.
I pulled them out and had to fish out the packaging in the toes of each boot. I expected wearing her shoes would feel odd or uncomfortable in some way. But it didn’t. Instead, it kind of felt like my friend was with me, and I knew that she would approve of dinner at La Charradea (her favorite restaurant).
I also knew she’d approve of the time spent building a friendship because relationships were priorities for her. She encouraged and championed forming and nurturing connections.
This morning, I slipped my feet into a pair of brown loafers.
As I walked into Panera to meet my mom and her friend, I looked down at my feet, encased in those loafers, and I realized something.
While at first, I worried that wearing my dead friend’s shoes would be weird, it’s actually a comfort.
Each time I get out a pair, I remember her.
Each time I slip them on, her memory is with me.
Each time I walk somewhere new in them, I am reminded that our lives—even those of us who live to 90—are startlingly short. I am reminded to make the most of the time I have, to savor the present and the people in it.
The Bible tells us to number our days so we will act in wisdom.
When I slip my feet into one of my friend’s shoes or slide on a pair of her boots, that truth echoes in my heart.
I won’t lie. I wish she was still was here, but I know someday we’ll see each other again. Until then, I’ll keep walking in her shoes.