Last week, we lost a very close friend of ours to cancer. Sure, cancer sometimes wins in the end, but it was utterly and completely inconceivable that it would take the life of our sweet Julie.
I met Julie almost 17 years ago when she was introduced as the fiance of a good friend from high school. I took a liking to her immediately. We saw each other a few times after that but didn’t become close until we had our first child and moved to a neighboring community. There, Julie became the local aunt my daughter did not have. Her cheerleader at plays and sporting events. The close confident who would send her care packages at camp and Halloween candy assortments *just because*. When my son was born, she and Dave visited us in the hospital and she cried, because she felt like a member of her family had just been brought into the world. That made me happy, because I absolutely considered her as a part of our family.
Cancer was sadly a part of her life. She was diagnosed 14 years ago and fought this horrible disease with every fiber of her being. She taught me so much about life and how precious it is. Never once did she even consider giving up the fight, not even in the past year when doctors told her that options were being exhausted. She loved life and wanted to be present for every second she could. In every moment, she brought joy and sunshine to those around her. I never once saw her wallow in pity at the burdens she had to bear. She always thought of others and wanted them to be happy.
Her wake and funeral, held last week, brought out so many to say goodbye. She had so many friends. She just collected them everywhere she went. We all knew we were loved by her and that she thought we were special. Seeing her in the casket, I hoped against hope that she would rise up and say this was all a joke, and she just wanted to get all those who loved her together for a fun party. Sadly, that was not the case.
There was a photo montage created by her husband that played in the funeral home. You saw so many pictures of her LIVING. You saw her at her 40th birthday party, which was all about celebrating her survival. Pictures of her with her treasured nieces, nephews, and god-children. Always happy, positive, and spreading love.
My heart breaks knowing she is gone. Soccer Girl is equally devastated, losing her partner in crime for hair straightening, putting on makeup and movie dates. All we can do now is remember her with love, and think about what her cousin Jim said in his moving eulogy – everyone in the church should commit to doing one “Julie thing” per day. Making a lonely senior citizen smile. Holding the door for someone. Calling someone out of the blue just to say that you were thinking of them. All of those things and more were the essence of Julie, and we are now responsible for keeping up her work in this world. A tall order indeed, as those were mighty shoes to fill.
Miss you, sweetness…