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Mostly we talk about trivial things like fashion in this space. Not today. Instead I’d like to tell you about Sherry Bolen, a friend of mine whose eye is so well-trained that she can look at you from head to toe and notice practically everything about you. With her penetrating gaze, all is laid bare—the good, the bad, and the ugly. When I was in third grade, I figured it was because she was a Mom like mine, retrofitted with eyes in the back of her head at the birth of her first child.

By the time I grew up, I began to realize that her uncanny ability to size things up and cut to the chase of matters was possibly connected to something more exceptional than motherly intuition. It isn’t just that she can spy the only loose thread on your dress; it almost seems to me that she can see the substance of the person within each body.

Her three children were lockstep in age with me and my siblings. We received our first religious education and many happy childhood memories as a result of her hospitality.  While we were growing up with her kids, she fed us, overnighted us, and ran us all over the place, usually at the speed of lightning. Over the years we’ve known her, she has worked with my Dad and cried with my Mom over the various trials and heartaches they shared with loving and raising kids.

When I grew up, she became as much a friend as an alternate mother to me. She once guided me gently away from a terrible life choice, possibly because she dared to ask questions that even my parents wouldn’t ask. For me, it was actually better than answering parental questions because she could bear up under the disappointing facts better than they could. At the time, we both found ourselves living away from many relatives and friends so we visited back and forth on weekends. She had a thoughtful mind that ran quick and deep, so there was never a dull moment. Neither of us had any extra money and we’d sit together doing common things like poring over catalogs, looking at clothes, a hobby I share with only one other person—my mother. I owe her more than I can estimate for her influence during those years.

At one point in her life, she made a lasting act of faith that, in my opinion, is on a par with the one made by Abraham and Sarah when they placed Isaac on the altar. I never felt she received the proper amount of reverence and honor she was due for that. But they don’t often pass out awards for the righteous here on earth. I suppose she knew that she’d have to wait for that. Nevertheless, her courage will always serve as a source of strength and encouragement to me when I imagine what was required of her. If you multiply that by everyone she knows, that’s one big avalanche of influence from a single life choice. I’ll have to give that some thought the next time I lean too deeply into the idea that my life is nobody else’s business.

When I received word that she had passed away this past weekend, my husband and I were in the car, headed toward a crowded event. Initially, I thought I might be able to compartmentalize this loss, as I do so many things in my life. But when we reached our destination and I planted my feet on the ground outside the car, nothing in the physical world seemed real to me. Was I really walking on pavement? As the fact of her death descended on me, I looked across the crowd of people and, weird and new-agey as it sounds, they looked less like people and more like spirits to me. All the world seemed so terribly fragile and temporary. And so it is.

Today my life is filled with a legion of friends and blessings that I wouldn’t have or know because of her love, including her two daughters who are my oldest friends. I’m sad for their families and so many others like me who will miss her. But I do trust that if we follow the same path she did, we can look forward to seeing her all happy and bright, fitted in royal garments that are made by a very well-known Designer.

Farewell, my friend Sherry, lover of fine garments and quite a few broken people like me. It makes heaven seem more inviting, knowing you’ll be there.