I have to say goodbye to a friend today. I’m struggling as most people do with death. In this case we are talking about a mother leaving her young son and loving husband behind ,so the sting seems slightly stronger. We are talking about a woman who fought tirelessly in the face of cancer. We are talking of a lady so open and honest in her journey that it was tough to read sometimes…and we are talking about a scenario where holding onto your faith is like keeping your umbrella upright in a windy rainstorm. I don’t understand but my guesses are plentiful. She was too good for this place? God needed her more than we did? She came to teach us something?
I met Jodie only once before she became sick. She showed up at a mutual friend’s harvest party with a sparkling newborn and a matching smile. You could tell that boasting about her beautiful bundle was exactly where she wanted to be. Pride floated around that party like bopping balloons and we were all in celebration mode. I recently had my first little boy too so the connection was there and our small talk centered around our babies.
The next time I met her was Christmas night at the same mutual friend’s house. It was a casual affair and I immediately accepted the invitation because I heard karaoke would be involved. When I arrived I saw Jodie and also found out we would be singing tunes on her brand new karaoke Christmas present . She may have loved karaoke more than I did. She refreshed my memory about how we met and then launched in to how she had just found out that she was sick. I was a bit awe struck of how easily she shared with me. We barely knew each other and yet at the same time I totally got it. There are two kinds of people out there. There are those who are very private, choosing only to bring in their very dearest into their world and to bring them in slowly. Then there are people like Jodie. People who approach you and boldly say, “I have cancer. It’s stage 4.” I remember my reaction when she said “stage 4 ” and I remember it not being a good one. I may have even possibly gasped. I didn’t know a ton about cancer but I knew stage 4 was not the stage to be in. I still regret that reaction… but you know what? I honestly think Jodie was okay with it. I am a sharer like her, hence this blog that bears into my soul. I do it because I want the gang to rally around me, because secrets eat me alive, because if I’m inwardly freaking out I want you gasping right along with me.
Jodie and I sang our little hearts out that night and all the while I was impressively stunned about a girl who just shared “stage 4” and was still belting out show tunes.
After that night I decided I had to follow her brave crusade. I read her posts on Facebook and eventually her late night soul stirring blog posts. Never in my life have I ever even considered donating blood until Jodie asked us all to do it. She said that it really could help people like her. Both Bobby and I went that week. Bobby still goes and we will probably donate blood in her honor for the rest of our lives. We got to really know her family. We went to the best summer Christmas party for Sammy; complete with snow and Santa. Our kids went to school together and just last year Jodie was dressed to the nines to surprise her son at the Halloween parade. Her spirit was palpable . You could touch it. You wanted to be it. And I found myself asking a million times “how the hell is she doing all this?” It’s the one thing I wish I asked her. The why was evident. She wanted to make memories for her son and she wanted to be in them…but the how? How do you climb out of that dark to be such a force of light? What in the world did she know?
The last few weeks weighed on those who rooted for her and saw her WINNING! There were setbacks. When her Facebook posts became sparse I worried. When her sister started posting for her I started praying…hard! I spoke a lot with God. We chatted about how I knew it was impossible to ask Him to take away cancer. I reasoned with Him. I said if everyone got their wish of no more cancer then our planet may not survive. I told Him that I got it and and how I understood. I even mentioned that maybe He was unable to take cancer away and that was okay too. Justification. I said what I needed to say to make sense of a tragedy. I also added that if Jodie DID make a miracle recovery I could totally believe in that. For her, a miracle actually seemed possible.Some people just leave an impression that is miracle worthy.
As I entered the hospital on Thursday after my water broke, I scrolled Facebook to pass the time. I saw the first profile picture changed to one of Jodie, then a second and then I knew. She was gone. It took me a bit to confirm what I knew …but she did indeed lose her war. Bobby and I sat there about to bring new life into this world and we grieved. We grieved for her husband and her young son and for the miracle we all wanted so badly. I started with my “why’s.” Why did we get to be sitting here having a baby and she lost her life? It felt so unfair, It felt so guilty. It seemed way too much “circle of life ” for me in that moment. But I also felt thankful. I felt thankful I knew her, thankful she would be watching over me in that delivery room, thankful she was being glorified all over the place. She made her life matter. Here I was at the pinnacle of an important moment in my life and she was there….just as she would be scattered throughout little Sammy’s memories and dispersed among stories from loved ones. And while God may not always be clear about why tragedies happen, He is always clear in the lesson…we walk away more somber, more broken, but more grateful for what we have, more aware of greatness when we see it and with more understanding of how life should be lived. Thank you for the example Jodie. You will be sorely missed.