I am blessed with a small handful of special friends who have helped me in my faith journey. Cheryl and I have been friends since we were eight years old. In the course of our almost forty years of friendship, sometimes we haven’t spoken for months. Then she senses that I need her, such as when my dad died and when the kids were first diagnosed with autism, and she calls me. There is something that connects us beyond this world. She smiles when I call her my angel.

One story from our childhood sums it up well. We were playing badminton once when the birdie landed on the roof of their one-story ranch. It was our only birdie, so Cheryl found a ladder and I climbed up. When I hit it down to her, she hit it back up to me, and roof badminton was born. We played it whenever we had a chance, with no parents were in sight.

Our friendship over the years has been a roof badminton game over time and space. She has been there for me when I have been on the ground, and I have tried to be there for her when she was grounded. Today, Cheryl and I have email and cell phones to help us hit the birdie back and forth. It’s not quite the same as all-night talks at our sleepover parties, but it gets us through the tough times. Recently she made me cry by sending a photo of the two of us in a frame that reads, “We will be an encouragement to each other. Romans 15:32.” It sits on my desk and reminds me that we are not alone in our journey.

Shortly after a special visit together, Cheryl was in a car accident. She was driving safely down the road when a random event happened: a car in the next lane slid over and knocked her into the median. A few days later, she called to tell me that she was a little shaken up but didn’t appear to have any serious injuries. Then the pain came.
Despite being a nurse, she had a hard time getting some of the doctors to believe that she had an injury and was in pain. It reminds me of the plight of so many women with chronic fatigue syndrome whose symptoms are often dismissed as psychosomatic. She could not sit and could only stand for short periods of time. She spent most of each day in bed.
I asked her what she did all day long. Did she read books or watch television? She responded, “No, I mostly just try to quiet my mind.” Then with a laugh she added, “I can kneel without much pain, so I guess that God wants me to do some praying as well.”

For more than a year, she traveled from doctor to doctor, much like we have done in our autism journey. No one could put a name to it. No one could help relieve her pain. And in all that time of lying in bed in pain, I never heard her complain once. Not once. She told me that God was slowing her down. She needed this time to be silent. To listen for that still, small voice.

Finally Cheryl found a doctor who gave her suffering a name: pudendal neuralgia. Basically, a nerve in her backside was being pinched by a fibrous mass. People are often misdiagnosed for years and don’t like to speak about it because they are embarrassed by its symptoms. Pudendal neuralgia is rare, and it resigns most to a lifetime of pain.
But Cheryl will not be discouraged. Her life is filled with a strict therapy schedule and lots of prayer. She says she knows God is healing her. In the midst of her days of quieting her mind, she prays for Elizabeth. I know because she sends me text messages to tell me.

That is a How Person: someone who reaches beyond her own suffering to care about someone else’s.