It's never easy to say goodbye, whether it's just for a few months or for longer. The people we love in our lives leave an impact on our hearts. They've made our world a better place, and even though we may disagree with them, ultimately, we are tethered by a connection forged in similarities.
I met Rene Manning Wilson online in 2006, and we became fast friends even though we lived over 500 miles apart and only got to see each other once or twice a year. But we talked on the phone for hours on end several times a week when possible, sometimes chatting into the early morning hours. We made each other laugh and no topic was off-limits even if we disagreed.
The first time I met Rene in person was the same day her mother passed away. I'd flown to Missouri to meet her, knowing her mother was extremely ill. I asked Rene if I should wait, but she wanted me to come. So I did, arriving about eight hours before she lost her mother. That first meeting cemented our relationship. You don't walk beside someone through pain and come out without a connection.
Over the years, I became a part of Rene's family. I felt as comfortable at her house as I did in my own. And Rene and her family came to see me as often as they could, experiencing some firsts here in Charleston like walking on the beach. I welcomed Rene's sister, Shelley, her nephews, and her daughter into my home, loving their unique perspective on life.
Rene spent all of her life in the little town where she was born, East Prairie, Missouri, which has a population of about 3,000 people. I've spent most of my life in big cities, most in excess of 500,000 people. Rene had experienced some things I never would like having a child while I ventured outside the country, something I couldn't pay her money to do. We could not have been more different from one another. But we loved one another despite those differences.
On December 10th, Rene passed away at her home. The call from her sister came as a shock, and I don't know when or if I'll fully recover. It was much like the call Rene made to me when her daughter, Alexis passed away at the young age of thirty-one in 2017. Rene's heart broke, but she tried to make the most of life without her only child. But those of us who loved her knew she desperately missed her beloved Lexi.
That is the only thing that makes Rene's passing a little more tenable. She didn't walk into Heaven alone. Her daughter was there, hand outstretched, to welcome her mother into her new life. And Rene was reunited with the child who owned her heart.
While we who are behind miss her and grieve for her, we also rejoice that she has found happiness once again, and we know that when our time comes, it will be Rene's hand reaching out to us to say "welcome home."
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