I have a childhood friend who’s birthday is 7 days before mine, and when we were kids, that was something we thought was cool. I’ve never forgotten her birthday, and I’m confident she never forgot mine. We went our separate ways and I didn’t see her for 30 years until just a few weeks ago. I received word that she was in the hospital in the town I live in, hours away from her home, and she was very ill. She and I were hot and cold in high school, as many teenage friendships are. I honestly couldn’t remember what the temperature of our friendship was the last time I saw her, but I knew all these years later, I wanted her to know I loved her. When you grow up with someone, regardless of whether you're the best of friends, the worst of enemies or somewhere in between, they become part of who you become. And she was very much part of who I am today.
I was unsure how she would react seeing me after all the years, and considering how sick she was, she could have simply thanked me for coming and just as quickly asked me to leave. She didn’t do that as soon as she saw me, as weak as she was, she smiled and said “Hey Stace!”
There was a lot of activity in her room, with numerous nurses preparing to take her for a walk. I felt at first that I was intruding, but I knew Jesus was doing something special with that visit, so I sat and watched. I’ve experienced death many times with grandparents, my mother, and most recently my son, and in some ways I have a very different perspective than most. On this day, I didn’t see a friend that was dying. I saw a friend with more strength than I’ve ever seen in my life fighting to live. She was fighting for her parents. For her children and for her grandson. She didn’t accept what the physicians were saying. She wasn’t done. Honestly, it was typical for her, or at least typical for the 16 year old her that I knew. She didn’t take kindly to anyone telling her what to do, and would fight to do things her way. I know this first hand because the 16 year old me fought the 16 year old her....many times. And many times, we made up until the next fight. We were more alike than either of us wanted to admit. I ’m so thankful that 46 year old me was there to see 46 year old her fight again.
We didn’t say a lot because she was so weak, but I got to tell her I loved her. I got to tell her to keep fighting, and even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I got to tell her goodbye. We didn’t talk about the past, because it didn’t matter. What mattered was we had another chance to.... be us. The us that made us friends in the first place all those years ago.
Her fight came to an end this past Sunday, and although I knew it was a possibility, the news broke my heart. She. Fought. So. Hard.
I know that her suffering was great and that it now is something she will no longer remember. I even caught myself wondering if somehow, someway Hagen would meet her and they would discuss the antics of two NB Lions. Trust me, she’s got some stories to tell! Many thoughts ran through my head, but in the end, I am just so thankful I got to hug the neck of someone, who for better or worse, helped me become me. In the hour that I visited with her and her family, she inspired me to not only continue fighting, but to fight harder.
Thank you, Leanne. What you didn’t know was on that day, I needed to be inspired, and how awesome is it that Jesus chose you to be the one to inspire me. My prayers are with your momma, your boys and your sweet grandbiscuit.
When we see each other again, I’ll have a Wendy’s frosty, or at least heaven’s version of it, for both of us.