Some people enter your life for a season, others, for a lifetime. I remember my very first best friend, Bernice. Bernice was my childhood friend from my hometown in North Little Rock, Arkansas. She lived about a block from my house, and we visited and played with each other often. We had been schoolmates in nursery school and kindergarten and went on to attend elementary school–first and second grade– in our segregated community. When I was nine years old, however, Bernice and I were separated. I was bussed to an integrated elementary school across town, and Bernice remained in school in our community. We saw each other less from time to time, but our young lives began to develop in different directions. Though our time was short-lived, our precious time was my introductory lesson in sisterhood. A season.
After moving to Evanston, IL with my mom at the age of 13, I would meet other friends who would come and go for various reasons, but not without leaving a lasting impression upon me – Friends like Angie, who was my “running buddy” in high school. She even traveled with me with me to college my Freshman year, traversing the campus on cue and on time (as if she was actually enrolled there). We were like Frick and Frat, breaking into laughter with no more than a silly look, cheating as card partners in a “mean game of spades” and getting into mischief just for the hell of it. It seemed strange when, years later, our lives took different turns on different paths to different destinies. Rounding out our little “rat pack” was my dear Tore, a brave young sole who openly marched to the beat of his own drum. Tore adored me and I guarded him as if he were my precious baby brother (though he and I were actually the same age). Angie, Tore and I were enseperable. We sang together in the high school choir and hung out at each other’s homes on a daily basis. I would never have imagined losing touch with my “D” (as I called him). As fate would have it, I would lose D to a fatal illness from which even I could not protect him. Who would have thought that the rat pack would someday cease? A season.
Then, there was “Lewis” — Browne Cornell Lewis, an accomplished attorney, a caring professor, a renowned law school dean, an esteemed scholar, mentor, advocate, daughter, sister, and friend…friend in both word and deed. Lewis and I met in law school at the University of Minnesota. I was a first-year law school student and Lewis was a year ahead of me. Though, initially, Lewis and I seemed to have nothing in common save law school, we would become fast confidants, entrusting each other with intimate(and funny) secrets. I would become affectionately known to her as “Cotton,” and she to me as Lewis. Over time, we celebrated each other’s successes — graduations, bar exams, first jobs and the like–and held each other up through our heartaches and disappointments — the death of our fathers and other loved ones, boyfriends, and promises unkept. There were adventures — moving in as roommates after law school (bad idea) and moving the contents of an entire apartment in a shopping cart while rolling down a hill (worse idea); green contact lenses (the worst idea) and lifting small cars in a single bound (don’t ask).
We were each other’s biggest cheerleaders and unqualified life coaches, listening to each other’s goals and dreams and holding each other accountable; cheering each other on to victory with our respective talents and ventures; knowing when to smile and nod and when to speak the unsolicited truth.
Unlike with other friends, when time, distance and life would separate us, we would instinctly find our way back to center at just the right time, and pick up as if we had just talked the day before. Who else would take her solo stroll as my Maid of Honor? Who else would stand quietly by her side through her tragedies? Who else would drop everything and come uninvited to see me through major surgery? Who else would reciprocate when she had hers. Cotton and Lewis. Lewis and Cotton. Unapologetically ourselves, basking in our own and celebrating each other’s individuality. In as much as I gave, I always received. I trust she’d say the same.
We dreamed together what some surely thought were impossible dreams. But they were not impossible to Lewis, because Lewis was a woman of great faith. “This is our year, Cotton,” she would say each year. “We are blessed women of God.”
When I asked Lewis to be my first interview for my new Her Woman Evolves Series , she never hesitated. We sat, and laughed, and talked about her personal story, about her own woman evolves — Her education, her faith, her passions and dreams, her love for the many students she taught and mentored, and her plans for her students at North Carolina Central University. I could barely get to talk about her accolades, because she insisted on talking about mine, because she was THAT kind of selfless BFF.
When we were closing the interview, I said: Dean Lewis, what final word can you share with the audience about your woman evolves,” to which she replied, “I am the discipline whom Jesus loves.”
I smiled when she said it, but the words struck me in a way that I didn’t completely understand at the time. I would come to find comfort in those words as I struggled to understand how she could be gone so soon. She is the disciple whom Jesus loved, and so He called her home.
Browne Cornell Lewis, my BFF, left behind a host of family, friends, and adoring colleages, as well as a legacy — of service, of excellence, of integrity, of love, of honor, of faith, and heart.
It is beyond fitting that I renamed my “Her Woman Evolves” serieson AWE Radio the Browne Cornell Lewis (“BCL”) Her Woman Evolves series, in loving memory of her legacy and all whom she touched in leaving it. Ours was a relationship tried and true for over 35 years. We become more than more than colleagues, so much more than confidants, even more than friends. We were sister-friends! Best Friends Forever.
Indeed, some people enter your life for a season; others, for a lifetime and, though my BFF has gone on, with her spirit etched in my soul, I am will enjoy the journey for a lifetime!
Tune to Awemediaco.com/AWE Radio every Sunday starting at 9:00 am EST and throughout the day to hear inspirational music, including the Gospel Medley (featuring His Eye is on the Sparrow) from the AWE biopic. Check the Broadcast Schedule on the website for additional airtimes and other programming.
Enjoy the Journey!