Six months ago, one of my best friends, Valerie Johnson, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. It was a totally unexpected diagnosis. All she had was a nagging cough and a bit of fatigue (which wasn’t surprising considering her busy schedule). But she never smoked. Now she’s gone. This too was totally unexpected. Maybe I should have expected it, considering the diagnosis. But she was always so full of life, always smiling, always encouraging, always loving. Her death seems like the most unlikely outcome imaginable.
There were four of us moms who have been getting together for years. We call ourselves “the margarita mommas”. We get together as often as we can to share laughter, tears, good news, bad news, food and….um…drinks :-). Our baby boys were tiger cubs together when we all first met. Now those boys are high school juniors. We were celebrating over 10 years of friendship. After the boys graduate from high school next year, we are going on a cruise to celebrate. Well…that was the plan. Now there are three of us. Our sweet Valerie has left us. And my heart hurts. It breaks for us, for her husband, for her children, for the rest of her family, and for all the kids she taught.
In all the sadness there are some things for which I am grateful. I am grateful that after her diagnosis the community surrounded her with love and support, showing her and her family what a blessing she was to so many people. It was beautiful and made me proud of our community. I am grateful that I know she loves Jesus and is now spending eternity in His presence. I am grateful I got to visit with her, even though I had moved to Macon, and tell her I loved her. I’m grateful we margarita mommas got together one more time before it was too late. Mostly I’m just grateful I got to know this beautiful woman AND I got to call her my friend.
We never know when life will abruptly end for us or someone we love. Make sure you love big without reserve. Valerie, give Jesus a hug for me and have some fun in paradise. You can show us around when we get there :-).