by Christie Perkins
I have three contacts in my phone I can no longer use. Anita, Sheree, and now Lori. All cancer friends. I can’t bring myself to erase these contacts, as if having them in my phone somehow keeps them close to me.
A flood of memories rush in when I see their name flash across as I’m scrolling for another contact. For a brief moment my heart goes soft and I am touched by their goodness. The memory of their smile greets me in this moment. I can almost hear their voice, their laughter comforting me and telling me that though there are hard times there is much sunshine.
I just can’t push “erase.”
Anita lived around the block from me. She was diagnosed about a month after me. Anita’s smile was infectious. She loved flowers. There were several occasions I was able to be a beneficiary of her thoughtfulness. We chatted about life and death and enjoyed each others company. Oh, how she loved her family.
And that laugh- the whole room splashed with sunshine with that laugh. I chuckle when I think of the stories of pothole rodents. And her taco cravings would have to be realized in the next life when her stomach was whole (if heaven hosts food there). The memory of her makes me smile.
Then there’s Sheree. Who on my second day at the cancer center we reconnected. She was not happy to see me there but our destinies rejoined us. We were friends when I first got married. We served in young women’s together with a powerful team of friendship. She was an amazing leader who was wise and kind and when she was firm you knew she loved you.
She always saw the good in others and clinged to the good in this world. Her whole body was filled with light. And most days, during the chemo dump, we would get a good little chat in before dozing off. She was always concerned about me and how I was doing. Always thinking of others before herself. I loved her family, and she loved mine though our connection was strictly at the cancer center. After I finished treatments I would sneak in and find her sitting in a chair or waiting to meet up with the doctor- I knew her chemo schedule just like she knew mine. I miss her.
And dear Lori. Oh, the amazing example of perseverance, service, and love. I met her through my cancer journey. She was an amazing single mom who didn’t let her physical ailments get in the way of parenting and supporting her boys in whatever circumstance. At her funeral the local football and baseball team sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” She was so incredibly selfless.
She was strong. Her strength was endowed from a loving Heavenly Father, no doubt. I remember one particular day feeling a strong need to visit her. And surprise, as I walked out of the cancer center Lori was walking in. Because of the side effects of the treatments I didn’t recognize her. Then suddenly the bright smile on her face clicked with the contact in my phone: Lori. Lori! I quickly turned around and hugged her. I was in awe at that amazing smile. She didn’t let anything get her down. She had complete faith that everything would be okay. Her lack of fear was calming. She will never be forgotten.
It would be impossible to erase their impact on me. How blessed I was to be influenced by these gems. Their purpose in my life is evident.
But still a part of me wonders why them, why not me? My heart wrenches at a real pain that several of my cancer war buddies were not bullet proof. Survivors guilt hurls itself at me. We walked the same path though sometimes she was quicker, brighter, or more compassionate. Sometimes she trudged through more mud. And this last time she marched full speed ahead to meet her maker. She knew her destination though she didn’t want to accept it at first. But, she radiated with peace knowing that all would be okay.
I guess she was just more refined.
I’m not questioning God for I know of his infinite wisdom and plan for each of us. I am confident in his timing. He is so good and kind. I don’t blame Him but praise him for the great opportunity I had to walk shoulder to shoulder with someone so refined and prepared to change the world. And they have. My world is better for the pages they have added to my book of life.
Their death is not the end. Their death opens up a whole new world for me. I am better because I was blessed to have these angels as earth buddies.
So, to each of you that may be suffering from survivors guilt I have just one recommendation. Pick up where they left off. Carry on their goodness. And if you ever find yourself in a quiet room pondering their goodness maybe you can feel them whispering to your spirit how it’s done. I honestly love funerals because you get to hear the finest things about the deceased. I walk away wanting to be a little better; a little more like them.
I know it is what they would want you to do- remember them by carrying on the best of them.
And one last word to the dear contacts who are still in my phone:
May Anita be feasting off taco trees, arranging beautiful flower bouquets, and teaching prairie dogs how to build mountains, not holes.
May Sheree be spreading sunshine wherever she may be, enjoying a cold soda; smooching on those grandkids she left behind.
And may Lori be delighting in her daughters heavenly accomplishments, holding her son’s hands, and still continuing her elite angel errands, as she has been doing here.
And may God grant you the peace in knowing that though our hearts break at the emptiness of their loss, that they are closer than they have ever been. May your heart be filled with gratitude for the kindness and goodness that fills our hearts because we are better having marched alongside some amazing people.
As for you, keep fighting. I’m certain your angels will take some of your bullets for you. Keep your head up and keep trudging because I know it’s what they would have done. Their impact on you is impossible to erase and I know that they are very close. There are angels that helped them in their difficult times, and now they get to be the angels to help you. I don’t doubt it for a moment.
Let your heart heal- live as they would.
I hope you enjoyed reading! On some devices my share buttons are a little tricky to find. To access, click on the comment bubble to load up my share buttons and scroll to the top of the page. My share buttons are underneath my title. Click and share! And oh, have a fantastic day!