Sometimes, this time of year is difficult for me. In 2000, I was in the Neurological ICU at the University of Michigan for most of the months of October, November and December. There are some dates that stick out more than others: on October 13 I had an MRI under sedation. When they laid me flat, I quit breathing and turned blue. I might not have survived but for the quick response of the Code Blue team, who emergently intubated me and “brought me back.”
On October 17 I was intubated again, and helicoptered to the University of Michigan, put on a ventilator, and was nearly dead. I got MRSA pneumonia, so on November 1, I was trached.
This time in the hospital was very, very scary. I was kept under quite heavy sedation because I was highly agitated and kept trying to pull my tubes out. Doctors couldn’t tell me whether I was going to live or die.
Once I finally got out in December, just before Christmas 2000, I had a whole new battle to deal with: PTSD. I would have flashbacks of being on the vent. I would wake up during the night from a horrible nightmare where I was coding, or where I had died…It was terrifying.
As time goes on, things have a way of not taking up so much of your memory. Some things will never seem less horrible, no matter how much time goes by. For me, slowly but surely, I started healing physically and emotionally. I got stronger in my body, and less traumatic in my emotions.
Even though it has now been 16 years, I still remember November first as the anniversary of getting my trach. I start thinking about the hospital stays, and the whole horrible mess. But it doesn’t cut quite as deeply. Year after year, the sting lessens.
This time of year is difficult for another reason as well.
On November 1, 2007, my very best friend in the whole world, Linda, was diagnosed with Stage 4 endometrial cancer. And it had metastasized. She had her first chemo treatment in December, 2007 on her 40th birthday. She passed away October 2, 2008.
A little piece of my heart died that day. It hasn’t ever come back. Linda was the kind of friend you dreamed about having. The kind of friend that you could wake up in the middle of the night if something horrible happened. She was the kind of friend you could depend on, 24/7, 365. She was LOYAL.
We had one fight in the entire 14 years of our friendship, and she was so quick to forgive me for being overbearing and way too into her business. She had a quiet strength and determination that many people underestimated. Linda loved deeply. She didn't make friends quickly, but when you became her friend, you were her friend for life. She was a friend worth fighting for.
Linda's favorite verse was Zephaniah 3:17; "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." I remember the day she found this verse. I walked into her apartment and she showed it to me first thing. She had written it on a piece of paper and put it on her end table. That God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, would rejoice over her with singing made Linda almost giddy.
I don't think she realized how many people rejoiced over her.
I will love Linda always, I will forget her never. She has indelibly changed my life. While my heart is broken, my spirit is soaring because I know that she is now whole, healthy, happy, and pain-free. There are no tears beyond Heaven's gate. There is no more night. There is no cancer.
Friends, cherish your loved ones. I mean really, really love them. Hold them tight. Tell them how important they are to you. You never know what’s going to happen. That was one thing Linda and I treasured. Those last eleven months and 1 day, we poured out our hearts to one another. Nothing was left unsaid. She knew how much I loved her and I knew how much she loved me. It was a sweet, beautiful, precious time. And yet watching her suffer was almost unbearable.
She truly made me a better person. So these “anniversaries” are tough. But I know that one day I will be reunited with this best friend a girl could ever dream of. And we will laugh. And we will sing. And there will be no more pain.
3 ”No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:3-5 ESV