In my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d be typing my thoughts out regarding my dear friend, Aiko, on a document in my “Dearly Departed” folder.

I’m called a ‘writer’ and an ‘author’. Words which really mean I talk a lot with my fingertips. I am driven by inspiration, and yet for a week, I’ve been numb, staring in shock at a blank page bearing only her name; Aiko. It’s like I’m stumbling through a room filled with words, unable to connect any of them adequately.

I read the kind words from other friends and coworkers who echo similar sentiment; that she was strong and helped strengthen others.

When I met Aiko, we connected instantly. She was a guitar-wielding, Bible-thumping, God-loving, mountain-climbing adventurer not all that dissimilar to the one I stared at in the mirror daily, but she lacked fear; something that plagued me. I hid my true trembling inner self behind a bold exterior, while her bold exterior matched a bold inner core. I craved that reality in my own life. She possessed the courage to be herself. She was genuine and uninhibited.

She and I talked about taking large boots along to put outside the tent whenever either of us camped alone. I wrote a funny poem about it, but she did it. Like so many people, I benefited from her strength and acceptance.

She didn’t pretend to be strong; she was strong. She didn’t pretend to be in control of herself, she was in control. She didn’t pretend to be brave, every bit of her was brave and at every moment. Whatever she did, she did it boldly and with controlled, thought out steps, right down to her mysterious end.

I had the privilege of being one of her roommates for several years. We had some crazy times with countless gatherings, celebrations, jam sessions, serious talks, and silly moments. One such silly moment was on a Christmas when she and Julie had put together a story to introduce their Christmas gift to me; a standing tool chest, which I still have. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder.

I regularly reflect on the times she and I would play our guitars together and say in my heart, “One of these days we just have to get together to jam again. Someday.” But ‘someday’ just got kicked out into eternity. One song I recall distinctly is from the Along the Road album by Susan Ashton, Christine Dente, and Margaret Becker. It’s called Angels.

“We’re lifted up by angels
Higher than the world
Strong enough to leave it
Bound to learn the secrets
Angels never heard”

It’s a fitting song – lifted up by angels, leaving the world, and secrets.

Some people leave rings on the surface of life’s ocean. Aiko left a big beautiful tsunami. Somehow, I just took it for granted that she would always be there with her guitar, love for God, passion for others, and her unique take on life.

May we understand the true depth of value we had in our dear friend, Cathy Aiko Barkdoll. And may we embrace those we love knowing that none of us is guaranteed another day. (Did I sound like her with this ‘may we’ paragraph? Cuz I was really trying.)

To those of you who loved her, may God comfort you and give you the reassurance that you will see her again one day.

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