‘Roommate’ is too small a word

When I started college in the fall of 1992, I expected that I would have a roommate I would laugh with, maybe study with, go to church with. I hoped I’d find a friend in a roommate. What I didn’t expect to find was someone who made the word ‘roommate’ too small, whose life and heart were bigger than I ever could have expected to find.

So many of my memories of Rebecca involve food. I remember having a mint-chocolate chip milkshake at Big Al’s when we decided, at the end of our freshman year, to be roommates. That next year was when she taught me to eat sardines on crackers rather than going to the dining hall on Sunday nights. (I know it sounds horrible, but it was actually so much better than what the dining hall served.) And the semester we lived in Buffalo, we discovered that the Gardenview served half-price pie after 8pm. It wasn’t that the pie was cheaper, but that we could have twice as much for the same price, that convinced us we’d moved to the Promised Land.

And I can’t think of Rebecca without thinking of her family, all of whom she shared with me so generously in those college years and beyond. I loved the weekends in Franklinville with her parents and sister, picking apples, watching the Nancy Kerrigan / Tonya Harding Olympics, getting my car fixed when I didn’t know what the brake light being on meant, ramming around on back roads and eating at the dive-iest diners in existence. A weekend there always ended with worshipping at New Life, where her church family always made me know that I was welcome. Those weekends mark my college years. And even still, if I need a place in Western New York, I know I have a place there.

All of my memories of her surround Jesus. If you know her, you absolutely know how much she loves Jesus, and how that flows out into her love of the people around her. She has, I think, a way of seeing people the way that God does, seeing something of who they were created to be. And she finds fulfillment in helping them see that vision as well, enough so that they can begin to strive for it. Have you ever been truly seen and known by another person? And you realize that what they see in you is good? That’s the gift she has.

Rebecca and I last fall in Franklinville.

I’ve been thinking of Rebecca lots recently, because it’s the start of the fall semester and I always think of Houghton in the fall. I’ve also been thinking of her because it’s football season and a part of me will always need to trash the Bills. But mostly, I’ve been thinking of her because of how caring and generous she is to me all these years later.

I posted some throwaway request for recommendations for a large print Bible last week. I think that twenty years of grading papers has finally started to catch up with me. The next day (the. literal. next. day), before people had even stopped making recommendations, a new Bible that I could actually read without straining my eyes appeared at my house. I’ve been reading this week, able to pause and think about Scripture because I can actually see it.

That’s my roommate. We haven’t lived together in almost 25 years, but that’s how I’ll always think of her–my roommate–even though she’s more than that word. Rebecca’s one of the people I’m forever thankful to know.