Monday, January 21, 2013


I've wanted to write this post for weeks now. Yet, I just couldn't seem to find the words. And even after I found the words, it would be 2 more weeks before you would actually get to read it. Simply because I wasn't ready.

When John and I got married in 1999, I acquired his family, and I acquired Andrea and her family as well. Andrea was the daughter of John's father's best friend. They've been friends since junior high, so Andrea and her big brother Joe, literally grew up with John. He's known them since he was born. John's dad has now been friends with this guy for more than half his life.

A couple of years ago, thanks to all the drama that we have been through with my inlaws, my sister-in-law Jean, was at the library where Andrea worked complaining about me. You know, how I was evil and should be destroyed. Andrea made a comment about how she didn't believe it was true, Jean said that Andrea didn't know me, and Andrea quickly resolved to rectify that situation.

A beautiful and glorious friendship began. We were privileged enough to spend the next couple of years getting to know Andrea, her husband and her precious kidlets. We were blessed enough to spend the last year doing what we could to keep Andrea's spirits up and make the bad days less sucky. And even though to an outsider it would look like we were doing all the work, our lives were certainly enriched by the care packages we delivered and the time we spent with Andrea and her family. See, at 33 she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in January of 2012.

Andrea and I joked that we were separated at birth. Where I as strong, she was weak and vice versa. I'm quite sure she was the sane, rational part of my brain, she would probably agree.

Andrea and I managed to build a friendship unlike one I've ever had before. She's the only person who I couldn't put on my "happy face" for. Because we were so much alike, we both knew that the other was just telling us what we wanted to hear. Thankfully neither of us was afraid of calling the other a liar and getting to the bottom of whatever the current trouble was. We both walked away feeling better about whatever situation we were facing. Our relationship forced me to be utterly honest with her about the struggles with infertility, with my inlaws, with my own family, and she could help me find peace about the situation, or any situation really. Of course, I could provide perspective about moments in her life too. Like the night she cried when she missed her kid's Halloween plans because she couldn't be exposed to that many germs because of her weakened immune system due to the chemo treatments. She was busy getting better, better that her kids missed her for one night instead of a lifetime. Of course, I had no way of predicting the future, but my reassurance that she wasn't a bad mother was enough to provide her some peace and ease the guilt.

She taught me how to worry less and let life happen more. There wasn't much that chips and hot sauce wouldn't fix, or at least soothe. She taught me that I'm stronger than I think, and that it's okay to slow down, to say no, and to not make an offer I didn't want to hold up in the first place. She taught me to to hand over more of life's little inconveniences to God, like job loss, sucky exam grades, and burnt biscuits. She taught me that there was nothing better than texting about our husband's when they went off to the lease for the weekend. We probably saved each other years of therapy and marriage counseling.

Andrea had the ability to make you feel like you were the most important person in the room when you were around. She was tons of fun, and thanks to her and relationships that she had cultivated with other people, I've gained a few new friends that I'd like to get to know better. They certainly can't replace the relationship that I had with Andrea, but they can certainly add to my life and they already have. Andrea had the ability to put things in perspective, even if it wasn't a situation that she fully understood. She also had an amazing capacity for forgiveness and she truly understood and practiced the "turn the other cheek" concept.

From the moment of her diagnosis of Stage IV colon cancer, to the emergency surgery which removed her colon, ovary and appendix, she never believed that the whole situation wasn't trucking along exactly like it was supposed to be. She might not have always liked the results or the outcome, but she fully believed in "rolling with the punches and giving it to God". And she did. She showed amazing strength and a fighting spirit when most people would have caved under the disappointment of another setback.

There were moments of laughter and moments of tears. There were moments that I would have gladly traded places with her, and moments she probably wouldn't have given up even if it meant a different outcome. Even though I can't send her a text message or find her sitting in her chair at her home, she's still here. I hear her voice every time John irritates me about something, her offer of "Do I need to take care of him?". I hear her voice every time I've had a moment of self loathing over school. "Girl, I did the 13 year plan, it's not a race." I hear her every time I see her kids. She's in her daughter's laughter and joy over a Christmas gift. She's in her son's fearlessness. She's in her husband's stubbornness. She's in every yellow or purple butterfly I see. She's in the purple shirts I own, simply because it was her favorite color. She's in the moments of doubt, I can hear her telling me to not worry so much that it will all work out in the end. And you know what, she's right.

I can hear her voice telling me how much she loves "you guys". I can even hear her now as I type this, saying "sheesh" that she doesn't deserve all the hoopla. She'd even be slightly annoyed that this post is literally, all about her. Yet, this is probably one of the few places she is wrong. Her friendship literally changed my life.

I'm pretty sure what I posted on Facebook on December 4th sums it all up

"I've thought all day about what I wanted to say to you on this space. As I picked out my purple shirt today and the bracelet with the yellow and purple butterflies. I've thought about the text messages, the phone calls, the date nights, the Christmas shopping expedition of 2011. I've thought about your infectious laughter, your "hey guys!" greeting, and your sweet smile. I've thought about the strength you've shown through the treatments, doctor's appointments, and the overwhelming pain. Yet tonight, as I hugged your husband, and I told him that he was stuck with me, I heard your laughter and your voice telling me to give him grief. Thank you for all the text messages, the phone calls, the emails, the friendship, and the love. You had such a huge impact on my life, in ways that I probably won't even realize for quite some time. Thank you for changing my life, and for letting me be a part of yours. Hold that tiny baby that was gone from my world too soon, and save me a seat, we will have lots to catch up on. I love you."
Today I'm thankful that I didn't really lose her. Sure, I can't sent her a text message or laugh about something her husband children did, but she's still here. I'm thankful that I'll see her again, and that she's no longer suffering from the pain and misery of cancer, but also from life's disappointments. I'm thankful, that because of her faith and choices that she has made I'll see her again. When the moments of grief and missing her seem to overwhelm me, I can just close my eyes and see her beautiful smile, and I know instant comfort and peace because she's exactly where she would want to be.

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