C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at the moment one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one'”(The Four Loves). This sentiment surely is true of my friendship with Corinne, my husband Simon with her husband Bryan, and even of our preschoolers together, Gabriel and Owen. God has given us friends who know and understand us in nearly every way, and this week we said tearful goodbyes to them as they move to Argyle, NY for a long-prayed and hoped for pastoral opportunity. I don’t feel its necessary for friends to share everything in common in order to have a deep and meaningful friendship, but I do resonate with Lewis’ words, and it has been a remarkable gift just how much my family shares in common with our dear friends, the Fitzgeralds.
Both Corinne and I are registered nurses and fostered a friendship through involvement in the same women’s Bible study (affectionately known as “Best Bible Study Ever”). Both Simon and Bryan attended Covenant Seminary and graduated with their Masters of Divinity. Simon was employed by Riverside Church as the Pastor of Youth & Families for six years and a significant portion of that time period overlapped with Bryan’s pastoral internship at Riverside. Bryan and Simon both have been working as waiters to pay the bills while awaiting ministry opportunities.
It doesn’t end there. Simon and I played matchmakers and set up Corinne and Bryan; we introduced them to each other at Simon’s 30th birthday party. We went on a bowling double date with them as their first date. Simon and I talked Corinne off a ledge a few weeks into her relationship with Bryan when he was coming on a bit strong and she thought he was “bat shit crazy.” (She and I talked for hours and hours on numerous occasions about these men who fiercely pursued us…about how we loved it and were also quite terrified). Corinne and Bryan married eight months after Simon and I did so we have walked the joyous and difficult journey of early marriage together. Corinne was a guestbook attendant in our wedding (a fact I really wish I could historically rectify: she should have been a bridesmaid. Our friendship was just taking off at that point but now she is a sister to me, and so it just doesn’t seem right that she wasn’t a bridesmaid. It really bugs me). Simon was a groomsmen and I was a bridesmaid in the Fitzgeralds’ wedding, 14 weeks pregnant with our Gabriel.
Our dear friends got pregnant six weeks after their wedding day, so Corinne and I shared half of pregnancy together. I remember when Corinne announced her pregnancy to the group of 8th grade girls that we co-led a Bible study for: “Bryan and I are getting a little friend…by way of my uterus.” When I went into labor at 41 weeks Corinne was 22 weeks along with Owen. She was my doula and she was outstanding. She opted to swap out her jeans for a pair of Simon’s boxers to throw on so that she could jump into the birth tub with me and rub my back during contractions. When I was losing my mind in pain and discouraged by the process, I yelled out “Someone pray for my cervix! Pray out loud!” Corinne didn’t hesitate and prayed that weird but genuine prayer. She must have been terrified after watching me scream out my nine pounds of baby boy but instead she told me she was just incredibly impressed. And inspired. Corinne delivered her own firstborn a few months later after a grueling 60-hour labor from the first early twinge to the final heroic push. I was there with her just as she was there with me, pumping breastmilk every 3 hours for my 4-month-old who was home with Daddy. Corinne elected to have a midwife-attended homebirth just as I did, because we didn’t have enough in common already. She was first exposed to the idea of natural birth in college, same as me.
In my opinion there is nothing like becoming parents to knit friends together in the strongest possible way. Suddenly you share all the same struggles and all the same joys. Corinne and I have texted at 3AM about obnoxiously awake and happy babies who insist on middle-of-the-night parties, and also wept on the phone at 3AM about devastating breastfeeding struggles. We figured out some crazy mess of sleep training together, solid foods, toddler meltdowns, and Target runs with littles in tow. We learned marriage with children together, finding some comfort in the same battles, the same challenges. Perhaps more than anything we hand-in-hand came to terms with our humanity as mothers. We shared our shortcomings with each other, real or perceived, and received grace upon grace from the other, both of us fallible new moms who were just doing our best and learning along the way. We also got baby fever at the same time, and both got pregnant for the second time in July 2014. We had morning sickness together, round ligament pain together, attended refresher childbirth class together, and hated the glacial pace of the last month of pregnancy together. Along with our dear friend Melissa (who was also pregnant with her second and due in April!) we did foot soaks and painted each others’ toes because when you have a BELLY BELLY you cannot do this yourself. Corinne and I did postpartum together. The engorgement, the battle to get out of maternity clothes, the anxiety that the two-year-old would run over the baby, and the absolute cluster of adjusting to TWO crazy monsters (and with that the complete lowering of our standards).
Our firstborn boys were born about 4 months apart and our second-born girls were born eleven days apart. Ordinarily I would never agree to doula for someone when I was 39 weeks pregnant myself, but I couldn’t not be there for my sister Corinne. I didn’t really have Braxton-Hicks my entire pregnancy, but whoa when you were pushing and gripping my hand for dear life, my uterus squeezed right along with yours! You birthed sweet Lily Anne in triumph and grace, my precious friend, and it was my honor to be at your side. Corinne, of course, was not at my labor 11 days later (I would have never allowed it) but she was the one I was texting with in early labor before Simon got home from work (“This sucks – you do it for me”), and she was notified of our GIRL’s arrival very soon after delivery — we didn’t know in advance if we were having a boy or a girl, and Corinne was beside herself with excitement at the news. Baby boys together and now baby girls together!
Bryan and Simon started a tradition of taking the boys to the mall together in the morning. The Saint Louis Galleria was about equidistant from our rental house in Brentwood and their rental house in Dogtown. Sometimes the mommies would tag along, but this was primarily a boy thing. I’d hear stories from Simon about their adventures. Gabe went through a phase when he would just pitch a fit when it was time to put him back in the stroller — unless Uncle Bryan did it. Gabe and Owen crawled all over those mechanical “put 75 cents in to make them go” rides on the 2nd level — they both loved the hot dog truck the best. They threw coins in the big fountain downstairs, rode the elevators and escalators up and down and up and down and up down, hit up the Disney store, and just caused a general delighted-little-boy-sugar-high-ruckus. And Bryan and Simon talked about life. Marriage, parenting, ministry, waiting on God. The jobs they each had applied for (which were sometimes the same ones). Simon always came home encouraged. Bryan, you always pursued him well. And I am so deeply thankful for Bryan Fitzgerald’s faithful friendship with my husband.
Let me tell you about Gabriel and Owen together. OH, be still my heart. They have literally been friends since birth. They ask about each other ALL THE TIME and I know no unadulterated joy like the look on Gabe’s face when he sees Owen, the look on Owen’s face when he sees Gabe. As one-year-olds they were pirates together for Halloween; as two-year-olds they were Toy Story characters. I just don’t know what we will do this year when they cannot go trick-or-treating together. Gabe and Owen hug each other and kiss on the mouth upon greeting and when saying goodbye, always, without exception. They refer to each other as best friends, in those darling three-year-old voices they have. They terrorized the Yellow Room together every Sunday at Riverside, and together refused to participate in kids’ worship time (thank you, #pastorskids). After the service each week when we had retrieved them, they just transferred their mischief to the sanctuary: ran around the pews and instruments up front (can’t believe they never broke anything) and the playground outside — getting Gabe into the car eventually was no easy task. Mention of the mall at our house became synonymous with Owen — in Gabe’s mind there is no mall without Owen (so we may never go shopping again).
Corinne and I had many, many, MANY evening play dates around 5pm when Bryan and Simon were both working dinner shifts at their respective restaurants — it was the end of the day, and our mothering patience was generally frayed, and we banded together to make it through till bedtime. Sometimes at the Kim house, sometimes at the Fitzgerald’s, always with a huge mess of toys everywhere (and fighting over said toys), a blur of giving dinner to two toddlers who generally consumed very little, and a joint bath time full of splashes and giggles (and sometimes conversations about not touching your friend’s body parts). And for the last ten months, also two baby girls who needed lots of nursing, holding, bouncing, and loving, of course at the most inconvenient times. Somehow, eventually, everyone was fed…something (marshmallows on some days), wearing PJ’s (or at least clothing) and ready for bed. The visiting family departed for their own home and the hosting family moved ahead with bedtime routines. Gabe always talked about Owen on the way back to our house, and I’ve heard many sweet stories from Corinne about Owen doing the same thing (“Gabey, Gabey, Gabey…”). This was our rhythm and it was chaotic but life-giving. It may have made our homes into war zones but it also left us with pursued hearts and understood feelings. Marriage, motherhood, working, ministry, waiting…these are not easy things and it’s been irreplaceable to have friends to whom we can relate on every level.
All of these layers of deep togetherness and understanding has built up such a sweet friendship. I think all four of us would say we have been apprenticed in the ways of Jesus through learning how to best love each other. For example our kids are sensitive to dairy and we’ve been dairy free as a family for nearly two years now. The Fitzgeralds have always gone above and beyond in making sure that we were served dairy-free meals in their house, that Owen’s dairy-containing snacks were stowed away before we came over for playdates, and even at Owen’s 2nd birthday party — they made (a lot of) dairy-free cookies for Gabe to enjoy in place of the other children’s cupcakes. Fairly often we would babysit the Fitzgerald babies for short bursts of time when Bryan and Corinne’s work schedules overlapped and Bryan had to get to work for a dinner shift before Corinne was able to leave the dialysis center to intercept the children. They perhaps thought this was an inconvenience to us, but time with the Fitzgerald children was always a welcome occurrence! Owen is Gabe’s favorite person EVER, so that cutie’s presence in our home always put Gabe in a great mood and gave him something to do besides whine to his mother! Besides, it meant the opportunity to visit with my bestie when she picked up the kids, and that was always a major win.
This long time of waiting has been just plain hard on both of our families. When will God provide ministry jobs for our families? What is taking so long? How do we make sense of the “no’s” from churches and the “not yet’s” from God? The Kims and the Fitzgeralds, together we traversed this long road and collectively we asked these confusing questions. And despite the frustrations of our shared journey, the togetherness has made it much more bearable. It has been a valley of (ministry) joblessness for quite some time, and we have struggled with feeling forgotten by God sometimes. Well we’ve never been forgotten by the Fitzgeralds. They saw us in times of plenty and they saw us in times of want. They have played the part of Ruth, the compassionate friend, to us in the role of Naomi, hurt and bitter, slow to heal. We have all been Naomi together as well, the blind leading the blind perhaps, but feeling so very heard and seen and known in the thick of things. You guys have been a vessel for God’s love to seep into our sometimes-blackened hearts; you have been the hands and feet of Christ to us; you have ministered to our souls.
Friends, you are truly Aunt Corinne and Uncle Bryan. Owen and Gabriel are best friends (and Lily and Phoebe are too, they just don’t know it). God gave us something so incredibly rich and special when He brought you into our lives. We are sad, just so sad, to lose you to upstate New York. Truly our world does not make sense without you right here in Missouri with us. We have cried and will cry more. It’s so sad! And simultaneously it’s happy and it’s new and it’s adventure and we rejoice: your prayers have been answered! The time has come! We know Jesus has so much in store; we know you are going to advance the Kingdom; we know you will be such a gift to the community of Argyle Presbyterian Church. We cannot wait to see how the glory of the Lord will shine through you!
Corinne Christine, you are my sister through and through. Before we met you were described to me as “puppies and sunshine” and that couldn’t be more accurate. You are a ray of brilliant light in my life. You have walked with me through my darkest days with me. When I miscarried baby Zuzu you entered into my agony like she was your own child. We have labored together (literally); we partnered together in the carrying, delivering, and parenting of new life. We’ve said hard things to each other and loved each other more afterwards. So many cups of tea, so many glasses of wine. Ridiculous fits of laughter. Hearts poured out. You stole my yoga pants for like a year and a half and I wish I could glue a phone charger to your arm, but goodness, I just love you as much as anyone has ever loved anyone. Ever.