Carol and I sat on the balcony of the condo we’d rented for the week in Branson, Missouri, sipping our morning coffee and watching the sunlight wash across the Ozarks. It had become our habit on this trip. Sometimes we talked, sometimes we prayed together, but often we sat in companionable silence, the way two old friends do.
I thought about the four bottles of perfume Carol had bought in the gift shop the day before. They’d filled me with hope. No one buys that much perfume unless they expect to be around to enjoy it.
I glanced over at her, following her gaze to the horizon. Her features were soft but indecipherable. What was she seeing? Thinking? I wanted so badly to show her a good time in Branson, like so many good times we’d had over the past 30 years. We ate blackberry cobbler with ice cream and waffles topped with fruit and went to a different music show every night. We played spades in our pajamas. We laughed and we cried, then we laughed some more. And later, in my bed, I cried myself to sleep.
“I had a dream last night, Kristy,” Carol said now, still looking off into the distance. “I was dancing in heaven. I felt so safe, so loved. Whether I live or die, I know I’ll be okay. That’s all I can be sure of.”
I stood and hugged my dear friend. What I thought was, Would I be okay?
On the last day of our trip, Carol returned the perfume to the gift shop.
I met Carol in 1984 when I was 24 and she was 38. My husband, Donald, and I were newly married. We’d fallen into a whirlwind of alcohol and clubs while dating but realized it wasn’t what we wanted for our marriage. Don had grown up in a strict Christian home but had lapsed in recent years; I could count on one hand the number of times I’d gone to church.
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