She was only 15 and already had lost a leg to bone cancer.
Our high school girls’ Sunday school class had pondered this for a few weeks before we met her one Sunday morning walking in on crutches.
It’s always strange to see someone in the flesh after you’ve talked about them—in our case someone we supposed to be lame or wounded. Her smiling blue eyes didn’t fit that description, although inviting us to a slumber party drew attention to a new possibility of slumbering. We all showed up the next Friday night. She obliged our curiosity by detaching her artificial leg and passing it around so we could feel how light it was. She also told us about something called ghost pains in her missing leg.
Claudia and I were the only ones still awake at midnight and decided to go outside and sit on the roof of their carport, which doubled as a patio right off the kitchen. It was January, and I was so taken with the number and brightness of the stars I forgot she was there and was startled by her voice, telling me she knew she was soon going to die.
At 60-something now, I still remember her voice coming out of the cold and how, aiming my flashlight toward the sound, I framed her blue eyes, smiling, painless, as if from a great distance.
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