Last year I wrote about Julie, one of my dear friends that survived a double lung transplant. On October 24th, we celebrated her one year anniversary of her life saving procedure by coming together and saying the rosary. I asked Julie if I could say a few words that night. I needed to speak to get closure.
How did I get here? How did we all get here? Here we are saying the rosary on the anniversary of what really is a miracle? I will go back to when I first met Julie.
I first met Julie in my residence hall when I was a senior in college. I could see we both had medical issues. I simply said, “If you need help, just knock on my door”. Not twenty four hours later, she did need help. She was homesick, having trouble finding her niche, and having typical freshmen problems. I was more than happy to help this beautiful young lady. We were becoming closer and closer. She quickly became one of my best friends. We would talk a lot. One fateful day she said, “I cannot hang out with you because I am going to a wedding”. I never thought I would get chills all over talking about that ominous conversation. I get chills because that conversation was our last conversation in the dorm.
The next form of contact I had with Julie was through text message. She texted, “I’m in the hospital”. I thought to myself, “What do you mean you’re in the hospital”? This was crazy. She was fine three days ago. Remember, I met Julie when she was on oxygen. I thought that was normal. I was wrong; dead wrong. I was raised to follow the golden rule. So, I visited Julie at Lutheran General. When I think back, that was me saying, I am never leaving your side.
Now, the storm just got worse. Julie spiraled down and I was not allowed to see my best friend because she was in the intensive care unit. I do not get scared easily, but that shook me to my core. It is not easy to give someone your heart and have it teeter-totter between heaven and earth. I remember posting a comment on her brother’s Facebook wall, what is wrong with Julie? His reply: she needs new lungs. My body turned into an ice cube. I could not even think of the severity, my mind refused to go there. I prayed, we all prayed, I asked God to save my best friend. We prayed for our daughter, our sister, our niece, our neighbor, our sorority sister, we all asked God for Julie.
We got her back a year ago today. Julie’s family was kind enough to let me visit her when she moved out of intensive care. They understood that I was not taking “no” for an answer. When I was walking down the hall at Loyola, I didn’t know what to expect. Low and behold, I saw Julie in her bright pink robe. “Hey gorgeous” I said. I was comfortable around the hospital equipment; I have been around that type of environment all my life because of therapy. I couldn’t help but notice that Julie’s family did not mind my company. I think they sensed how much I adored their Julie. I began to get to know each of them on a personal level and they certainly did not mind my disability.
I was beginning to realize that although it was a terrible situation, God was there. God gave me the strength to reach out to her and say, I’m here if you need me. God gave me the strength to get through those weeks when I couldn’t see her. God gave me the strength to see her after the surgery. God gave us the strength to see Julie through this.
Before I end, I want to explain why I chose to speak tonight. The truth is each and every one of you has a story. We all remember the desperation we experienced, the fear we had, and the joy of Julie getting new lungs. Each of you has a Julie story. That is what we highlight tonight. This chapter of Julie’s life is over and hopefully never to be opened again. I always identified as the friend who came as things got really bad. For her sake, I need to just be Hannah, her friend. It took a few conversations for me to realize that I have to have a new identity with her. I am here to cheer my best friend on during her college years. That is all. So, after tonight I promise Julie, I will just be your friend. However, I will end this with a story.
Julie finally came to visit campus in May. I had visited her many times at her house since she returned from the hospital. But, there was something holy about seeing her on campus. As we hugged, I looked up to heaven; I mouthed the word thank you. Now, I want to say it loud and proud. Thank you God, for my best friend.
Pain is inevitable. We can’t hide from it, can’t pretend it does not exist, nor ignore the potential of pain throughout life. We may scream and cry because of it but the pain will go away or lessen with time.
I really needed support this month. I received an enormous amount of support from you all. I am guessing but I think it is safe to say 50 people or more commented on my Facebook statuses. An easy 150 people must have “Liked” my statuses. Your good thoughts and abundant prayers were so incredibly helpful. When I was in pain, I would read what YOU wrote and it would immediately lift my spirits. It was literally overwhelming at times. For example, friends sent cards, a Sunday school class at my church sent about a dozen cards to me, so many e-mails, and it was truly amazing. So, from the bottom of my heart…thank you.
Also, my parents were so loving. The hospital tests are brutal when you have involuntary movements and they helped the doctors understand what would make it easier. Mom stayed with me overnight in the hospital, that was a rough night and we made it bearable. Dad got me through some awful moments during tests when if it was during his shifts. My parents are smart enough to take 3-4 hour shifts with me if I am at the ER to avoid complete exhaustion.
Thank you for the abundant love this month.