i’ve never really thought about death before.
you know, in the intense ways that you aren’t supposed
to start thinking about death until you’re older.
i thought that it would stay muted in the background
for awhile longer. but there is something about
the mourning process that makes you think through
the realities a bit more. and look a bit deeper
into the depths of pain and loss and healing.
and helplessly fall into the community and support
that surround you.
while wondering what does healing even look like?
from any loss in life really.
from any season where leaves fade brown and fall down
and branches bloom again with new leaves from new rays.
the whole mindboggling feeling that death
happens in an instant.
and then you suddenly find yourself
standing inside your own mind’s thunderstorm
wondering really dark & embarrassingly emo things
if everything were to fade around you,
would you be safe? or would you fade, too?
because you are overwhelmed with this crowded
that keeps questioning that
if this whole gig in life is about love,
all the giving and receiving and all the sorts
of sharing love that are possible
then why does
it hurt so much to
or actually, that seems
like an obvious answer.
of course, it hurts
to lose it. but what kind
of sick joke is it to be
able to love it while also
being able to lose it
in any given instant.
it just doesn’t seem right.
kristin was barely 36 when she left us.
she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer not much older
than i am now. it’s such an invasive cancer to a woman,
if you think about it.
just waking itself up inside
a perfect and healthy set of ovaries.
doing it’s best to strip her dignity.
to defeat her fight.
and if that wasn’t enough, it just continued to
monster crawl itself thru the rest of her body
for more than five years.
kristin was always so beautiful.
as a child, i remember admiring her gorgeous olive skin.
and her curls that naturally kinked into place all on their own.
this past weekend, her daughter, maya, asked me to read what she wrote at the memorial. i haven’t talked much about that moment since. but it gripped me in a way that i have never felt.
and the grip will not loosen. it’s all tangled into my heart &
it has begun a change within me.
now, i have absolutely no idea how this works yet,
but the mother-daughter bond between maya and kristin is fully alive. and i felt it in that moment. while holding maya’s hand and reading her words to everyone, i felt the strength they share.
the strength that kristin was adamant about sharing with her family and friends during her days.
maya is only nine, and she is experiencing that life is so broken.
that pain happens. but that the world keeps spinning. birth keeps giving and death keeps taking.
yes, she’s only nine.
but she’s also learning that there is joy to be found.
that pain actually points to a deeper understanding of love
that is far stronger than our humanity.
and yes, i am twenty-six.
but i am learning this with her. while holding her hand.
that this pain actually grows the capacity of my heart. to want to grow into a better woman, daughter, friend, and one of these days – wife.
but even better, this pain actually grows the capacity of my heart to
grow deeper in love with creation.
all nature. timing.
seasons. growth. people.
the ones i love.
all of it!
it is opening my heart to identify with creation
and all of its surrounding pain and joys. to hurt and rejoice
with one another. & to serve one another’s growth.
in this pain, a divine transformation is happening
that surpasses all understanding.
it’s this pinch that proves to my own humanity
that hope and peace can exist in spite of it all
and that without it, i may live
a numbly comfortable life.
[of course, let's get honest. the pinch of the pain
tends to bring out my ultimate ugliness. special thanks
to the ones that are loving me thru this]
i spent some time with kristin
this past spring. and it was one
of the most real and genuine conversations
i’ve had about the peace of death.
i have debated about sharing this with you.
but after hearing everyone speak last weekend,
i know she was not private about these words.
i also begged her to write them down this summer,
[because she was a beautiful writer] but she told me
that when you have been given only a few months left,
you don’t want to spend your time locked away with
you and your thoughts. you want to live out side
your own mind. your own self.
i told her that was the right point.
i asked her if i could one day share these words.
she hoped that i would.
not much long after this conversation, kristin, chris, & maya left florida to road trip across the countryside.
exploring the great outdoors together. where they made it to the furthest coast in san francisco before she left us.
but not with empty hearts. & not without first
leaving everyone she met for the better.
— spring 2011. florida
i spent the day with kristin, chris, and maya. it was so wonderful to see them. i am so happy that my relationship with kristin has been rekindled these past few years as high school and college years have settled down. i always admired her for being so much older, but always wished our growing-up seasons had aligned more.
god, kristin is gorgeous. even though she’s lost her hair, she is absolutely stunning. give her a wig, and i swear that you’d never know she was sick.
maya and chris were outside at the pool. and it was just me & kristin. remembering about how we used to row our childhood selves around grandpa’s lake in the flat bottom boat, jumping in to swim with the fish. just to then jump back in the boat, and try to catch them with a hook. and when we did, gramps taught us how to skin it and cook it. he said we couldn’t take fish from his lake and not honor their life by properly preparing them for dinner. we talked about the days when our grandparents passed away.
and then she asked if i had questions about her cancer. and i did. so i asked her about her journey. our family recently found out that her body had exhausted all available chemos and trials and treatments, and none had worked. she had been given only a few more months.
i told her that i didn’t think she was capable of only having a few more months. she was such a fighter. she was never a victim. never a martyr of sickness. she always fought thru. she always found strength to create maya’s school costumes, spend time with her husband & family & friends. and go to disney world.
she walked me thru every way that medicine had failed. that there was no explanation as to why she got sick. and there was no explanation as to why her body wouldn’t respond to treatment.
kristin always exposed
the fighter that was inside of her
with such sweet grace.
i used to be angry. we had just had maya, and we were hoping for a second child. and i was misdiagnosed for over a year. and i was angry that when we finally found it, the cancer has progressed to stage 4. it isn’t fair. and i was mad.
but there comes a point in pain and suffering, where you have to let go. find grace. so that you can fight the fight. you can last so much longer if you choose to fight with the strength of grace as opposed to anger and bitterness. and so i let go. and began to see how this suffering was sharpening me into a better person.
and my body started responding to this. i thought we were victorious. but then the cancer came back. and these past few years, i have not lost hope. and i won’t lose hope now. miracles do happen. but i will tell you
that i have found peace
that this will be what kills me.
angela, i grew up thinking that death
was so far away. that everyone gets to live
to be as old as our grandparents. but that’s
not reality. every morning represents your life.
and you may get mornings til you’re 81,
but i won’t. this will be what takes me, yes.
this will be the characteristic of my death.
but this did not defeat me. and
there is a deep peace found in that.
angela, what matters is how you live. how you love.
& who you share your days with. just make it count.
every morning, wake up. and
make those things count.
i saw maya playing outside. doing cannonballs into the pool. and i asked kristen if maya knew what was happening.
she said that she always knew maya would ask when she was ready. and that a little while ago, they were driving in the car and maya asked her if cancer could kill her.
and so kristen turned the car into a publix shopping center. climbed into the back seat. and she told her nine year old daughter that cancer will take her. i cannot even comprehend the strength of the bond that carried that conversation. and then they talked about the kind of woman maya will become. about how strong and loving and graceful and talented and ambitious she is now and will continue to grow.
and that they will always remember one another’s strength and kindness and love to themselves, eachother, their family and others.
and that’s the last time i saw kristin.
i knew it when she left that evening.
and i can’t shake her words.
there has come a point during all of this where
my heart simply can’t be loud enough.
through the grieving that i am only beginning
to feel. through the process of healing
and through the unshakable promises
of the hope of the gospel
that sometimes generates growth through pain
in order to prove unfailing love.
and where else would i be?
my heart can’t be loud enough.