I haven’t written in a few weeks. Recovering from this surgery is slow, boring, and depressing. There. I said it. I’ve had no inspiration.
Whenever I find myself lacking in inspirational material, I usually try to watch a movie that’s sure to stir some emotions in my heart. So that’s what I did last night. And it worked. The lightning bolts always start going off at 11:00 at night. I was so excited to sit down at my computer and compose a post this evening.
Then today happened. And right now…I can’t make any guarantees as to where this post will end up.
I’m thinking about writing a “This Morning” post and a “This Evening” post. How can the world change so drastically in less than 24 hours?
I watched The Fault in Our Stars last night and I bawled. I’m not going to take the time or space to explain the movie. That’s what Google is for. But it has to do with teenagers and cancer…joy and pain…life and death.
As I was falling asleep, I began to wonder why the movie created such intense emotions for me. Cancer has never really been a devastating force in my life. Why did a story about this disease move me?
Flashback to the Fall 0f 2014. It feels like just yesterday. I was in treatment for an eating disorder. Sitting in a circle in a group of women and men. All fighting for their lives. One woman started talking about when she first told her supervisor that she was going to have to take time off of work to seek treatment.
“I had scheduled a meeting with my boss and I walked in and her face was full of concern. ‘Please tell me you don’t have breast cancer.’ And in that moment–I know this is horrible–but in that moment, I wish I did. It’s horrible. I didn’t actually wish I had cancer. But I couldn’t help but believe that saying I had cancer would be easier than telling her I needed to be hospitalized for an eating disorder.”
This woman is not alone. Every head in the room was nodding in agreement. How many times did my treatment team beg me to talk to my employer about going into a higher level of care? And how many times did they ask me what I would do if I needed treatment for cancer? And how many times did I say “that’s different”? And how many times do I have to be reminded that eating disorders are the most deadly of all mental illnesses?
Whether we’re battling cancer or an eating disorder…we’re all fighting for our lives.
In the movie, this teenage girl started going to a support group for adolescents with terminal cancer. She didn’t want to make any friendships. She was there because it made her parents happy. But she did. She made friends. Friends that changed her life.
I think of all the women I’ve met sitting in a group like that. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to make friends. I just wanted to appease my parents or my treatment team. But something happens. Something always happens. And you meet a friend or 2 who end up changing your life. Forever.
Maybe that’s why I wept last night. The authentic friendships you form while fighting for your life in treatment are boundary-less. I don’t care what disease is trying to kill you.
My memory is crap, but there are certain things I can visualize perfectly.
When I picture her, I see this tiny thing perched on the steps at Mercy. It was my first day. I thought the adolescents had to go to Nashville. She looks like she’s 12. Not 28.
Despite everything I grew to know about her, she’ll always be that girl to me. The bubbly girl on the steps welcoming me into this unknown house. Smiling as she invited me into a truly transformational season of life.
This girl was a miracle. A complete and utter undeniable miracle of God. The way she held her head on graduation day as she described her journey through hell and back. You never would have guessed. She glowed with freedom from her past that only comes through the purest form of healing.
There’s something you should know about my sisters at Mercy Ministries. We spent 7 months of our lives together working through the most difficult “stuff” that the world has to throw at us humans. Day in and day out. There was no such thing as a superficial relationship. Everything was raw. Everything was authentic. Tears were real and masks were stripped away. Any friendship cultivated in that kind of environment with that kind of intensity and that kind of time is something unique and pure and precious.
I don’t talk to my sisters often, but when I do, it’s as if we spoke just yesterday. And there’s never an introductory “Oh, hey, what’s going on?” If we have 15 minutes to talk once every 6 months, we talk deep for 15 minutes. Soul. Stretching. Stomach. Wrenching. Deep.
This afternoon I received a text from one of my closest Mercy sisters. She informed me that our mutual friend was told she only has a few months to live. The bubbly girl on the steps. The bigger-than-life miracle. I knew she had cancer. Still, I hadn’t kept in touch very well. And now we are here.
I don’t know what to say. I’ve reached the point in my post in which I usually come up with some profound statement. Obviously, I find it a bit ironic that I went from watching a movie about teenagers dying from cancer to finding out that one of my dearest friends is suffering through a similar journey…all in less than 24 hours. Ironic isn’t the word. I don’t believe in coincidence.
But I don’t have anything profound to say in this moment. I’m just allowing myself to sit. Pace through the last day forward and backward in awe of the intricacies of the universe…both the beautiful and the ugly.
The opening line of The Fault in Our Stars went something like this:
“I believe we have a choice in this world, about how to tell sad stories. On one hand, you can sugar coat it, the way they do in movies and romance novels where beautiful people learn beautiful lessons and nothing is too messed up that can’t be fixed with an apology and a Peter Gabriel song. I like that way as much as the next girl, believe me. It’s just not the truth. This is the truth. Sorry.”
The miracle God performed through my friend’s transformation at Mercy is not voided because of some disease. Her life is a miracle, but we’re still on planet earth. If perfection was possible, we wouldn’t need Jesus. Some pieces of the human experience are so messed up that they can’t be fixed. At least not on this side of eternity.
I weep tonight for the same reasons that I wept yesterday evening. I weep for the authentic friendships I formed while fighting for my life. Not because those friendships are vanishing, but because I am so incredibly grateful for their existence. And–despite the pain–today I can say that they’re deepening and flourishing.
Stick with me for one more movie quote:
“I am not a mathematician, but I do know this. There are infinite numbers between zero and one. There’s 0.1, 0.12, and 0.112, and…and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between zero and two, or between zero and a million. Some infinities are simply bigger than other infinities…. You know, I want more numbers than I’m likely to get. And, God, do I want more days for [my friend]…But…I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity.”
It’s true. We each have a number of days. And each friendship comprises its own infinity. What we make of our infinities is up to us. I’m eternally grateful for mine.
My friend is still alive. She’s excited to see friends. She remains optimistic. Despite the fact that she lives in a different state, I hope to be able to see her soon.
I don’t want your pity and neither does she. That’s not the purpose of this post. I want only one thing: to make the numbered days in her infinity rich with love and peace.