Monday, April 25, 2011

Memories of Lori

Three years ago today, one of my best friends went to be with Jesus. I wrote this collection of memories of Lori after she died to give to her family. It's long, but hopefully after reading you'll understand why I miss my dear friend so much.

I can still remember the very first time I met Lori. It was January 5, 2003, and I was in the choir room at Highland practicing with the youth choir. We were in the middle of one of our songs and the door opened and this beautiful girl with blonde hair and sparkling eyes walked in. I knew instantly that whoever she was, I wanted to be her friend. My mom and I had to slip out early that night so I wasn’t formally introduced to her, but while we were walking down the hallway I asked my mom who that girl was. She told me that we had just had a new family move into the missionary residence and that was their youngest daughter. I was thrilled to know that for a short while, I would have a new friend at Highland.

The next time I saw Lori we formally met each other and I was so intrigued by this girl who had grown up in Africa! She seemed so cool to me. A year older, a perfect smile, and a cute and bubbly personality. Not long after that first encounter with Lori I asked my parents if we could please invite the Morrisons over to our house. They said of course, they were wanting to do that anyway. So one night Uncle Charles, Aunt Kaye and Lori came over. I can’t remember if it was for dinner, or just to visit, but I know that Lori and I let the adults talk downstairs while she came up to my room. I remember we laid down on my bed and had our first real talk. It was like we instantly became close friends. She brought a photo album and showed me pictures of her family and her friends in Ivory Coast. We talked about everything from our families to the kind of music we like to boys. We laughed so much that night and I was so sad when she had to go home.

I didn’t have much time with Lori because in May she had to move back to Africa, but in the 5 months that I knew her, we became so close it seemed that I had known her my whole life. We had many sleepovers and hung out as much as possible. I remember one specific time when Lori and her parents came by the house because they wanted to introduce me to Lori’s older brother Marc. Lori had shown me his picture and I thought he was so cute and she promised that she would introduce me to him! When he walked in the door I’m sure my face turned all red and Lori just gave me this silly grin that screamed “Told ya so!” I was so embarrassed but Lori thought it was hilarious that I had a crush on her big brother!

For Lori’s 17th birthday, the youth at Highland decided to throw her a surprise party. I was so excited about this! I went to Target and bought her all kinds of stuff- especially lip gloss- she loved that stuff! All of the youth sat back in one of the Sunday school classrooms with the lights turned off. We were trying to keep from giggling so she wouldn’t hear us as she walked down the hallway. When she opened the door we turned on the lights and yelled “Surprise!” Lori’s face was priceless. She got all red and started crying, but she was laughing at the same time! Everyone had bought her presents- mostly stuff to take back to Africa with her. Though Lori was only in our youth group for a short time, she made such an impression on everyone there and we all grew to love her.

When it came time for Lori to go back to Africa in the end of May of that year, I was devastated. My friend whom I had grown to love so much was leaving for an entire year! I didn’t know what I was going to do without her! On my last day with her, Marc took us to the mall. I think Lori had to get some last minute items for the trip. We were all a little down that day, knowing that goodbye was quickly approaching. We got back to my house, took a picture on the couch together and then stood up to hug each other and say goodbye. I hugged her so tight and tears instantly began to pour down my face. I told her how much I was going to miss her and she assured me the year would go by fast and we promised to e-mail each other as often as possible. As soon as she walked out the door I ran up to my room and collapsed on my bed and just sobbed. A year seemed like such a long time to me at that point and I couldn’t imagine not seeing Lori for that long.

The year did go by somewhat fast though. Lori and I kept in touch through e-mails. She told me secrets about boys that I wasn’t allowed to share with anyone else. I felt so important to be worthy of hearing her secrets! She told me about her school in Senegal and how she really liked it, but missed her school in Ivory Coast. She told me she was starting to look into colleges and I asked her to please come to Campbell because I knew that’s where I wanted to go. She told me funny stories and things she was struggling with. I did the same for her. Though we lived thousands of miles away, I think that the year we spent apart only brought us closer together.

When Lori came back to North Carolina in the summer of 2004 I absolutely could not wait to see her. After a whole year apart, I was finally reunited with one of my best friends! We were so happy to see each other that day! We laughed and told stories and she showed me videos from her graduation. I couldn’t stop smiling because my friend was back for the whole summer!

We got together as much as we could that summer. One funny memory I have is of us trying to learn the VBS dance moves. My mom had a video of this funny man dancing, so Lori my mom and I all spread out in my living room and danced along with this strange man. It was a Japanese themed VBS and the dance moves were hilarious. We were laughing SO hard at each other and couldn’t even sing because we were laughing so much! Lori helped out at VBS that year and the two of us taught the second grade class together. Though VBS only lasted 3 hours a day, Lori and I would just look at each other like “When will this day be over??” Those kids wore us out! But we had a blast singing, dancing, and telling Bible stories.

In June Lori came to the beach with my family for several days. Some friends of ours have this huge beach house down in Beaufort and I was so excited to take Lori with us. The whole 3 hour drive down to the beach was filled with laughter- mostly my mom and I laughing at Lori’s hilarious stories- she always found something to talk about! And at one point my mom needed something from out of the trunk and Lori was in the back seat, so she pulled down the seat and crawled into the trunk while we were riding, looking for whatever it was. All I could see was Lori’s back side sticking out and I was afraid she was going to get stuck! After a few minutes of searching she finally came out with the item in hand and said, “Phew!!”

We had such a blast that week. We stayed in this really fun bedroom with all these bright colors and we had a big bathroom to ourselves, plus a huge front porch with white rocking chairs. We went swimming and kayaking, and laid out on the deck. We stayed up late talking- catching up on the whole years worth of girl talk we had missed. We explored Beaufort- walked around downtown and took a bike ride one day. I have never been much of a bike rider, so why we thought it would be a good idea to ride bikes down the busy sidewalks is still a mystery to me. So I was leading the pack and Lori was riding right behind me. At one point I was riding through a crowd and I got really nervous, so I flung my foot over the bike and nearly kicked a woman passing by. I looked back at Lori with a “oopsies” look and Lori could barely ride because she was laughing so hard. She said that woman gave me the meanest look ever! We pulled around the corner, hopped off of our bikes and laughed and laughed!

Lori was so sweet to my whole family. Some of my friends don’t really take an interest in getting to know my brothers, but Lori always did. She would tease Taylor just like he was her little brother and she always treated Nathan like a friend. My whole family adored Lori and she felt just like one of us- like the sister I always wanted but never had.

When we were at the beach, we decided to be really girly, so we went to the grocery store and bought facial masks and a manicure set. She did my nails and we put on the bright green masks, but Lori and I forced Taylor to do it with us. He was about 11 at the time and he agreed to do it. I have a picture of me, Lori and Taylor sitting down with our masks and cucumbers over our eyes!

Before I knew it, the summer was over and it was time to tell Lori goodbye once again. Lori was headed off to her freshman year at Campbellsville University in Kentucky. I was sad to see her go again, but at least this time we would be in the same country! It was easier for us to keep in touch while she was in Kentucky. We chatted regularly on the phone and online and as soon as she came home for Christmas break I was there at her house hearing all about her first semester at college. I was so excited for Lori- she was starting this new independent part of her life and she seemed all grown up. She was meeting new people and learning new things. On Christmas Eve, Lori and Uncle Charles came with my family to do a mission project in Grifton, NC. We put insulation in a house. Lori and I wore these big white body suits and thought they were ridiculously funny. We felt so cool doing construction and we had a blast serving together!

When she came to NC the summer after her freshman year, I went to her house in Coats to spend the night and she gave me advice before I started college myself. She encouraged me to stay strong in the Lord and to meet as many people as possible.

One thing I loved about Lori is how honest she was. When she was struggling with a sin, she didn’t try to cover it up. In fact, she confessed it to people- and that’s what we’re supposed to do! I tend to hide it and pretend that it doesn’t exist, but not Lori. The Lori people saw was the real Lori. She was open about her struggles and her weaknesses and she wanted to use those things to help others in their walk with the Lord and hopefully prevent them from making the same mistakes that she did. I always admired this about her and still hope that I can be more like that one day.

When I started my freshman year at Campbell, I talked to Lori as much as our busy schedules allowed. Every once in a while I would talk to her on MSN and she would use her webcam to show me her room. Even watching her on my computer made me feel like we were together. Sometimes she’d just play a cd and we’d listen to it together and not even say a word. Lori loved music and we really wanted to sing a duet together. We wanted to find the perfect song. We were sure that with her soprano voice and my alto voice, we could be a hit! Lori had such a beautiful voice and I loved to watch her praise the Lord. I think she was always a little confused about why most Americans are so “stiff” when they worship. Lori wasn’t afraid to sing at the top of her lungs and lift up her hands and maybe even dance a little! Her worship was pure and genuine and she was so sincere when she talked to the Lord.

While we were in college, I didn’t get to see Lori very often, but I don’t think that hurt our friendship. I’d always see her when she came to NC for a visit. She came to Campbell two times to visit and I enjoyed showing her around my campus and proudly introducing her to all of my friends.

I regret not spending more time with Lori. At one point we thought we might work at Mundo Vista together, but I ended up taking a summer missions position in Sri Lanka. Lori had a blast working at Mundo though and became great friends with the other counselors. I know God called us in different directions, but part of me craves to have that summer back so I could spend those two and a half months with her.

The last time I talked to Lori was on April 19th, 2008. She called and left a message saying that she was thinking of me and wanted to see how I was doing. She said I didn’t have to call her back or anything, but she had some free time and just thought she’d touch base with me. I called her back that night and we talked for a while. I hadn’t talked to her on the phone in several months and we had a lot to catch up on. She told me about her recent trip to Africa and how she was back in Campbellsville trying to find a job. She was frustrated because she couldn’t do much without her masters in Social work and she really didn’t want to go back to school…I don’t blame her! She said she was ready for some man to come and marry her so he could take care of her and she wouldn’t have to worry about paying the bills! Lori and I used to always talk about getting married one day and how it seemed like all the good guys were taken. I’m sure Lori could have had any guy in the world, but they were all probably way too scared to ask her.

She said she had no idea what she was going to do next. Her friends were all still in school and she felt kind of distanced from them because they were in different stages of life. She was considering going overseas for a year to teach English, but wasn’t sure if that would work out. She loved helping people and was so compassionate. Whatever she ended up doing, she wanted to help others. She said she hated living so far away from her nieces and nephews while they were growing up. She adored them so much, like she adored the rest of her family.

She told me she had been sick for a while, but she didn’t make a big deal of it. She always brought the conversation back to me and asked how I had been, how my family was doing. Lori was so concerned about other people and even though she was sick, she didn’t spend time complaining about it.

I told her I was coming to Campbellsville May 18-21 for training for a camp and she was so excited. It had been over a year since I saw her last and I was so excited to see her in a few weeks! We giggled and talked about how fun it would be to be reunited, but this time it would be in Kentucky! She said she would make sure that she was there on those dates so we could be sure and hang out.

We talked about how the thing we love about our friendship is that we can go months without talking, but when we do talk, we just pick up right where we left off and it’s like no time has passed at all. She is one of the few friends I have who remained constant throughout time and distance. For the majority of my friendship with Lori we were not together physically, but we felt just as close as ever. She was a true life-long friend…one that would have for sure been in my wedding one day!

As the conversation ended that night we were still excited about seeing each other soon.

“I’ll keep those dates open,” she said.

“I can’t wait to see you Lori!”

“Me too, it’s been too long! I hope you have a good night, Meredith!”

“You too, Lori, and I hope you feel better soon!”

“Thanks, me too! Bye! Love you!”

“Love you too! Bye.”

If I had known that would be the last time I would hear her voice I would have never hung up that telephone. I would have talked to her for hours and days and told her how much I appreciate her friendship and what an amazing young woman she is. But I didn’t know.

My parents called me on April 26th and told me the terrible news about my dear friend. She died unexpectedly during the night. I can’t describe the way I felt at that moment. I was sitting outside studying in the middle of the academic circle. It was a beautiful day, but suddenly everything started spinning. I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything. For several hours I couldn’t feel anything. It was like all of the emotion had left my body and I was left feeling like I was in a terrible nightmare. I called Lori’s cell phone and as it rang I prayed that she would answer. I just knew it had to be a misunderstanding. She couldn’t really be gone.

Throughout the next day the reality began to sink in and that’s when the overwhelming grief came. I cried until I had no energy left in my body. I looked back over our old e-mails and in my mind I replayed all of the memories I had with Lori. I’ve never lost someone this close to me before and it was difficult to know how to even begin to handle it. On top of the sadness I was feeling, I was even more overcome with sorrow for the Morrison family. Lori adored her family so much and was so close to them. My heart went out to Uncle Charles and Aunt Kaye and Angela, Mary, Jeff and Marc. I cannot imagine the amount of pain and grief they are experiencing and I hurt for them all so much.

It’s hard to look on the bright side of a situation like this. It seems so unfair and so wrong. 22-year-old girls are not supposed to die like this. Not when they are loving and compassionate and kind and full of life. But I can’t change what happened. It is so wonderful to have the assurance that Lori is with Jesus now. I can’t grieve for her because she is so happy now! I can just imagine Lori up in Heaven right now. She’s probably sitting on Jesus’ lap staring at Him in awe. I bet she’s dancing and singing her heart out up there, completely satisfied and care-free. She doesn’t have to worry about her future anymore. No more worries about being jobless and all the good men being taken. She is at home. I guess I’m a little jealous of her. I can’t wait to see her again. I am going to miss her so much. Maybe God will put our mansions right next to each other so we can still have sleepovers!

Lori Anne Morrison was an absolutely beautiful young woman. She touched my life in a special way and I treasure the memories and the friendship that I shared with her. Lori touched so many lives- people all over the world were impacted by her big smile and her friendly personality. I will miss her dearly and I will never ever forget her and the legacy of love she left on this earth.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


The other morning, I had to be in San Francisco super early, so on the way back I pulled off at a look-out point by the Golden Gate bridge to watch the sunrise. I hopped out of the car with my cup of coffee, grabbed my Bible, and sat on the ledge in anticipation of witnessing the beginning of a new day. Though I’m not usually a morning person by any means, sunrises will almost always get me out of bed. My heart was still that morning
and I had a strange sense of peace as I sat out there all alone.

As the sun began to rise, I prayed for that city. For my city (still getting used to saying that). I was somewhat overwhelmed when I looked at the tall buildings and thought of the hundreds of thousands of people living there- 97% of whom don’t know Jesus. My eyes filled up with tears as I begged God to revive this place. As I was praying, I realized that though I was praying for revival, I wasn’t really believing it was possible. I mean, we’re talking about San Francisco- one of the most “pagan” cities in the world. How could this sinful place ever be radically transformed by the Gospel? But despite my doubts, I continued to pray. I know in my heart that with God all things are possible and that he really does have the power to do the impossible, even when I can’t wrap my mind around it.

Then my prayer shifted to Japan. We hear about it on the news, but then we go about our normal lives. But for those people, every day is still a struggle to survive. A dear friend of mine who is studying in the States is from Fukushima, which is close to the nuclear power plants. She is terribly worried for her family and has asked for prayer for them and for her country. Sometimes I don’t know what to pray in situations like that, so I opened my Bible and began flipping through the Psalms. I ended up in Psalm 46 and was shook by the words I read:

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts." (v. 1-6)

It was one of those moments where I could sense the Lord's presence so intimately. I was reminded that even when I freak out about life and even when there are wars and earthquakes and all kinds of crazy things that I can't understand, God is our refuge. He's on our side and will fight for us.

My heart was heavy as I felt the weight of the lost city I was looking at, and the suffering country a few thousand miles across the water. I struggled with how God could sit back and allow these disasters to happen and how He could let an entire city perish without knowing Him. But as I lifted up my cries to God, I felt like He was saying, “Trust me.” Even though I was overwhelmed and confused and anxious, I was flooded with peace as I was reminded of God’s faithfulness. He sees the big picture. He has a good plan. I need to trust Him more. I want to truly take refuge in Him.

I wish I had mornings like that more often. It wasn't a "feel-good" quiet time or anything like that, but I feel like I truly encountered God that morning. I didn't get answers to all of the questions I asked, but as I drove back to school, I knew without a doubt that God had heard my prayers and that He will answer them in His own time. Until then, I've got to take refuge in Him in these crazy times.