Beverly Dixon and I met through the Appling County School System. I taught high school; she, middle school. We saw each other across the auditorium (once we got one that is) or the multipurpose room at yearly meetings. We smiled and spoke when we passed each other. We recognized each other, but I’m grateful that God gave us opportunities to really know and love each other. In the 80s I moved to First Baptist Church, and there was a grinning Beverly, telling me how glad she was that I’d finally come to my senses and come to the right church. We didn’t move into the same Sunday school class right away because I spent years teaching teenagers, but at First Baptist, our elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top and my knee became unwilling to climb that last flight. Finally, I abandoned those teens and joined a class of ladies my own age. Beverly sat among them, still smiling. We were beginning to really know each other. We knew about grandkids and my dogs, about flowers and neighbor kids, about cooking skills and the lack thereof. We could prepare big holiday dinners without a second thought.
Some of the ladies in my Sunday school class were also bridge players, and often they invited me to join them at the game. I’d played a bit back in the 60s and early 70s at UGA, but I always refused graciously.
“English teachers don’t have time to play bridge on school nights,” I told them. “I have essays to grade. Wait till I retire.”
Well, everyone retires eventually, as did I, and they remembered my promise. Before I knew what was happening, I was up to my eyebrows in the game of bridge. Granted, I had to relearn. My college years and the little bit I’d learned about the game back then were far in my past. Patiently, they taught me—Gloria, Dot, Joy, Elaine, and Beverly. They worked hard to get me up to par or just good enough to hold my own. Every week we played, usually at the B and F but sometimes in other restaurants in town. As we played, we talked about anything and everything. She learned that I’m not very fond of chicken, but she told me she could eat about anything so long as we had a bridge game going on immediately afterwards.
Other days during the week we played at varying players’ houses. One night the game was at Elaine’s house, and we’d all managed to get inside before the storm struck. Outside, the rain drops beat furiously against the windows and doors. The wind howled and threatened. Lightening lit up the whole street, but we played on. Someone made a small slam, exciting the whole group. Suddenly we heard the slamming of a door somewhere and stopped to investigate. That’s when the lights flickered once, then twice before they went out.
“No problem,” Elaine said, as she got up to gather candles and matches. “The game must go on.”
That’s how Beverly and I, and all our bridge playing friends—Elizabeth, Sue, Judy--feel about the game. You see, we all win when we play. We enjoy each other’s company. We pray for each other, and we help each other as needed. Far too often, I broke a bone and wound up in a hospital having it repaired surgically. Beverly would show up with one of her delicious casseroles, always remembering that I didn’t like chicken very much. She called to check on me, and as soon as Larry, my husband, could drive me to bridge, they all waited on me until I could get back to normal. All my dear friends—Beth and Jean, Jurell and Pat, Carole, Vicki, Betty, Sonia, and always Beverly. How she loved to play and how she loved us all—her friends.
Beverly was not a complainer; she rarely mentioned her many illnesses although we knew when she was out for long periods that she was in the hospital recovering from surgery or some other malady. We did manage to contact her beloved daughters and ask them about her. In our Sunday school class, we prayed hard for Beverly on many occasions, but no matter how serious the illness, she didn’t complain. She knew of course that she and all of us were and are in God’s hands. Everything would be all right no matter what happened, and she’d be back to Sunday school and the bridge tables as soon as she could. If the Lord called her home, then so be it. She was ready. COVID punished us all viciously because it separated us for so long; we could handle about anything else. Beverly and I spent hours on the phone though. That’s what friends do, and our friendship deepened even more. She always asked about my Charlie, the black lab she loved through me.
Last week, Beverly went home to Heaven to meet the Father and the Son that she’d loved and worshiped all those years at First Baptist and before. I’m sure lots of family and friends were waiting to greet her, including Beth. I wonder if they play bridge up there. Our Sunday school class and bridge clubs have big holes in them now, created when Beverly gained her heavenly home. So does my heart. I’ll miss her for the rest of my earthly life, and then like Beth, I’ll have the chance to see her again. Thank God. This is not the end. Until we meet again, Beverly, rest in peace, my friend.