I was scrolling through some of the stories I've told in the last year and felt that tug. You know the place I'm talking about, where you come to realize that you want to be doing something but you're busy doing other things and can't do both? I've come to learn that I can't do everything I want to do right now, so I have to be patient and juggle a lot of balls without dropping too many. I want to be telling more stories like this one, but I'm deeply committed to writing my book (which I've come to learn is really two books. Don't get me started.)
As I was looking through my stories, I found the one I did last Mother's Day on a woman I know named Kristen Holt. She and I had never met, but we were friends for the better part of 8 years on Facebook. She was a nurse in the CT-ICU, the cardio-thoracic intensive care unit where some of the sickest people who've suffered heart attacks and such are tended to. Kristen knew my husband Joe, who's an interventional cardiologist. He's the guy you go to before you end up in the CT-ICU. And Kristen, in fact, had sent family members to see Joe in the office for various heart-related issues of their own. As I think back on my interactions with Kristen now, it's odd to have a relationship with someone you know but have never personally laid eyes on. It reminds me of pen pals from older times, when people would write each other letters and quite literally pour out their lives to total strangers they would likely never meet. Total strangers who knew more about them than their own best friends, I'd imagine.
Kristen's favorite thing in the world was being a mother to her two daughters. One afternoon after reading one of her comments to a Facebook post of mine, I clicked on her profile and started looking at her family photographs. And that's when it all started to make sense. She had an aura about her that I felt whenever I read her words. As though she glowed a little brighter than everyone else. She was the kind of woman you wanted to snuggle up with and just be around. She was loving and kind with big brown eyes that seemed to see deep into whomever she was looking at, and her smile in every single photograph was warm and inviting. She was the person you want as your neighbor. The woman you count your blessings for as your best friend. The colleague whose love and compassion for others was limitless. The mother who made you want to be the best that you could be, even when no one was looking.
A little more than a year ago, Kristen messaged me. I knew she'd been battling a rare form of colorectal cancer, but I thought she'd gotten the upper hand on it. She hadn't. Kristen had exhausted all her medical resources. The doctor had only given her a few weeks to live. This was two week before Mother's Day, 2017.
I called her. She was delighted by my idea to tell her story.
Kristen died two weeks after I posted it.
I don't share this with you now to make you feel however it's going to make you feel. I know I cry like a lunatic whenever I see her beautiful face and hear her talk about how cancer was a blessing to her. Can you imagine that? To know when you were going to die, and to - rather than stew with an angry hatred at the world - be grateful? To see the beauty and joy of your diagnosis? To live your last few days and to take your final breath the same way you lived your life? With love and passion? THAT is worth sharing. And that is why I'm sharing it.
My family's been on a weird roller coaster this past six months. The twists and turns and ups and downs have shown us a lot about some of the people in our lives who really aren't worth our time. Weeding people out of your life can be painful. But it's necessary. I'm reminded by Kristen Holt's positivity that no matter how lousy today might be, there's a pretty good chance I'll wake up to see tomorrow. What she wouldn't give for one more tomorrow with the people she loves.
So... keep weathering your storm. Whatever it is. When you start to feel like you're sinking, remember my sweet friend who died as gracefully as she lived.