Last month, we let some friends borrow our RV. They were on a whirlwind trip to Florida and they wanted to camp at Fort Wilderness and go to Disney World. The family of five used our RV for half a week, maybe not even that. I can't remember right now and those details don't matter. We never gave it a second thought. We wished we could do more. The mom, a girl that I grew up with- starting with girl scouts and ending with graduation from high school- was dying of cancer. She died this past Saturday.
I hadn't seen Shannon in over 20 years. We'd reconnected on Facebook and commented on pictures from time to time. When I saw her at the campground, I was struck by her strength. Physically, she didn't have much strength left. The medication she was on left her in such a state that she would start to fall asleep mid sentence. But her words were strong. She spoke of her family and her love and it was all strength. She was knew what was coming and she told me she wanted the trip for her family. She wanted to be everything she could for them. She wanted to be strong as possible so they wouldn't remember her sadness.
When I found out she died on Saturday, I was sad. We knew it was likely, but her death was hard to realize. It was hard to grasp, even though it was expected. She was young! I mean, she is my age. She has 3 children. It just isn't fair. So much in life isn't fair. I tell my kids that. But this, this unfairness hurts my soul.
And yet, when I think of her, I think about how she decided to be strong. Strong in the face of death.
Months ago, my pastor made a point one Sunday that resonated with me. We are all dying. Every one of us. Right now. We are dying. No one will escape death. And somehow hearing that absolved me from fear. Death is inevitable. In the end, our earthly decisions determine what death means. How we approach death impacts those we know and love. Shannon approached death with strength. She did not want to die. When I was with her, she talked about one more possible, but unlikely, treatment possibility. She was unsure the treatment was possible for her. She was certain about what she wanted. She wanted to be with her family and for her family to feel love. She seemed so strong, even with her body failing. I did not see fear. I saw love. I saw how much she loved her husband, her kids, her siblings. That will continue to impact me for years to come.
Love conquers death. And while I know she died, I know she lives.