It was a beautiful sunny Thursday morning and I had a 9:30 am chiropractor appointment. I got there and went right in and sat in that small yellow chair waiting for Dr. Tammy, my chiropractor. I am almost always happy on days when I see Dr. Tammy. For one, I know that any pain or discomfort will get better but also, she is a ray of sunshine and I just love her. So, on the car ride to the appointment I blasted the Glee Soundtrack and I sang my heart out. And I thought, "I really like today." It's funny how one sentence can change everything. Everything. One small sentence can change life as you know it and the future as you've planned it.
I've known Kristie for eleven years. I first met her when I was a senior in high school and heavily involved in Young Life in my town. Kristie and her husband Chad came on as volunteer Young Life leaders half way through that year along with their best friends, Laura and John. And from the moment they stepped into that role, I, along with pretty much every other Young Lifer in Webster loved them. They were young, cool, fun and they kept showing up, which, as a high schooler, means the world. Although I met Kristie when I was 18 and I got to know her a little bit when I transferred from Niagara University to Monroe Community College my Sophomore year in college it wasn't until her and Chad moved to Buffalo in 2005 that I would really get to know her and she would become an integral part of my life.
In 2005 I was working for Young Life in Hamburg and Kristie, Chad and their two little ones moved to Orchard Park. Let me give you a snippet of Kristie, my mentor. We talked on the phone once to connect when she found out I was in Buffalo and she'd actually know someone in the area when she moved. The second conversation we had she asked me on a scale of 1-10 how content I was with my life. When I answered somewhere around a 5 she asked a bunch of questions and then suggested I go to counseling. It must have been the Lord because that seemed like a good idea and I went. As I went, I dealt with issues that had always just been a part of my life and myself that I thought I'd always be stuck with. But, I worked through them. And after months of counseling, I experienced a beautiful thing- freedom. Freedom and growth and forgiveness. Simultaneously I was seeing Kristie at least once a week to talk and spend time together and do a Bible study. We called it discipleship. It was hard. She always asked the right question, and the right question was usually the hard question. She challenged me and pushed me and when I needed it she encouraged me. And always, always we laughed.
That was the start of a five year friendship that has changed my life. I became a part of their family. I lived in their basement (I was known, and still am known as the cellar dweller). I babysat Emilie and Daniel and have watched them grow up. I ate family dinners with them, watched tv with them, shared my life (even the messiest parts) and still found love with them. It's as if during those two and a half years that I dwelled in the cellar I was still growing emotionally and my character was still developing, because I can see how I've been shaped from that time and how a caring, consistent, loving, but firm force helped develop me into the woman that I am.
So, take that depth of relationship, all the love that is rooted in me, that has grown and been strengthened even in the storms of life that raged between friends and you can imagine how one sentence can make you feel like your ship is sinking and you are gasping for air without a life preserver in sight. Splashing and kicking all while trying to process the situation that is, in all honesty, just too big to bare.
It was in that moment that Dr. Tammy walked through the door, flashed me her beautiful smile, and then realized I was crying. When she asked me what was wrong, I had to catch my breath and push out the words, "My friend has cancer." And as they came out my throat was hot and my eyes felt heavy and I think they were sharp because it felt as if they cut my throat as they tumbled out.
Kristie has cancer. My dear friend and mentor, whom I love with all of my heart has cancer. And I can't fix her. The last time I lost someone I was 14 years old and my childhood best friend was murdered. Her body was found in the woods, so decomposed that they had to identify her through her dental records. I still remember my grandma saying, "Kelley's dead. She is dead, Danielle." And that sentence changed everything. It was then, at 14 that I told God that either He didn't exist or He wasn't loving and I wanted nothing to do with Him. By the time I was 14 I had lost my grandfather, my mom, and then my childhood best friend. I was done with loss. It hurt too much to keep giving of myself and letting love in and then having to let go. Do you know what it's like to miss someone? To miss someone and know you will never see them again? I know that feeling all to well. And I was done.
The great thing about God is that even though I denied His existence, He didn't deny mine and even though I denied He existed, it didn't change the fact that He did and does exist and that He is loving. So, at 29 one sentence could change everything, again. And while it has changed some things, it hasn't changed the fact that I know God to be real, to be loving and to be good. And while the only prerequisite for rejection and abandonment is to put yourself out there and love it isn't going to stop me now. The joy of loving and being loved far outweighs the pain of loss. Life is about relationships and the better quality of relationships the better quality of life.
So, I am learning to continue to love Kristie, even though there are days when it seems so scary. I will be there for her, because I simply love her and love doesn't abandon even when it seems like a "safe" option. Love is not selfish and jumping ship in the midst of a storm leaving people you love is just a really selfish act. I have to confess something- five years ago I would have jumped ship. But I'm not the same girl I was five years ago- thanks to God and thanks to Him putting a strong spiritual mentor in my life. She's helped to shape me and she has reminded me time and time again that she is not leaving me (until the good Lord calls her home). And if she's not leaving, I'm not leaving.
Cancer sucks. It just plain does, and although that is not eloquent or pretty it is true. This is a road I haven't walked before and I am scared. Each day brings new thoughts and I have to continually surrender to the Lord what is in my head and heart. God is good. He is my rock and with Him all things are possible. Yes, one sentence can change every earthly thing, perhaps, but there is One it can't touch. God is the same yesterday, today and forever and that means that He is ALWAYS loving and ALWAYS good. Take that cancer.