Monday, July 13, 2015

An open Letter to Sarah Joy

Dear Sarah,

I wanted to write this to you while you're still with us. I'm so sad and so sorry to hear that you're already walking the path that will eventually take you out of our world and into the next. Sad for us, but happy for you, because you have worked hard to stay with us as long as you could. I do want you to be out of your agony. I want you to be happy again.

A lot of people have mistakenly assumed that you and I are good friends. They are always surprised when I tell them that I don't know you that well. You are the wife of Mark Landis, the boy that I've known since he was two years old, chasing me up the stairs, trying to bite my feet. You are the girlfriend that he introduced to me years ago. "Becky, have you met Sarah?" he would ask, over and over again. He was so proud to have you as his girlfriend.

I've gotten to know you through your blog, and I was honored and surprised when Mark told me that you would read mine as well. A little embarrassed actually. I know by reading your blog that you and I are different. You are courageous and strong. Me, not so much. I get scared and upset over everything. I was a little embarrassed that you saw this side of me through my blog. (And here I thought nobody read it!) I'm not sure you would like me that much if you had gotten to know me better, so I've been thankful for this distance between us that has kept us from knowing each other too well. It's through your blog, allowing me to get to know you and letting me help where I could, that we have become friends. I know you have close friends and best friends and then you have me as a blogger friend. But we are friends, aren't we? I'm honored to be a friend in your life.

Mark has generously offered to let me come to say goodbye to you in person. Again, an honor, considering I'm not family or a close friend. I thought about it, but decided that for the sake of your family, to stay behind. I know that when my Dad was dying, as nice as it was to have so many people coming and going to express their sympathy, it was the intimacy of our family circle that I needed the most. Your family needs you now, not me.

But in spirit I am here with you and you've been on my mind and heart all day. I say little prayers for you in between the normalcy of daily life; between childish spats and spilled juice and laundry and making lunches. But in my heart, you and I are having a conversation. In my mind, I'm sitting next to you. And this is what I  say:

I know you didn't get to go to Paris. You were supposed to leave on Monday. I know you aren't going to see your kids go to school, or walk Olivia into Kindergarten the first day. All those "firsts" that parents love to see their children experience, you have been asked to give that up.

 But I was thinking about it this morning, and I realized, yes, you still get to do all these things.

You will be there with your daughters on their first day of school. You will help Olivia settle in and sit and play with her during free time. You will comfort your daughters as they sorrow, you will hold them as they cry themselves to sleep. You will be with Mark as he gets used to a new role of mother and father. You will support him when he feels he can't go on.

You will be there for your kids bedtime prayers and "wrap them up and give them to Jesus". This is what my five year old has said happens when we pray, and I love the simplicity of this analogy. Because what is more exciting to a five year old to unwrap something and discover what's inside? Everything must be wrapped because UNwrapping brings so much joy!

You will be standing next to them when they suddenly see something that reminds them of you; you will remind them that it's ok to laugh when they might feel they should be sorrowing. You will remind them to live their lives.

You will still love Mark and he will still love you. None of that has to end, in fact, it will get stronger, more perfect, more pure. You will love him as God loves him. You will help him to learn to love God in a more perfect way. You will be his partner, his friend, his advocate. Nothing will end, it will only get better.

You will be there to watch your daughters lick ice cream off their fingers, point out rainbows in the sky, and walk your daughters down the aisle, smile at your grandchildren. You will be there. God has never not wanted you to be there. It is only your position that will change.

You will see things that we can't see. You will understand things we can't understand. You will pray for us in a way that we don't know how. You will help us all, husband and children and family, because your love will be perfect. Death is only a pause in life; a breath from this life that breathes into the next. You will not end; you are Sarah Joy, and you will live on.

You have taught us so much about bringing Joy into life. Don't think that I've never recognized that you always capitalize "Joy" in every sentence in your blog! I have, and it's given me pause to think about joy and what it means to you. It has been your way of fighting cancer, fighting death, fighting sorrow, always with Joy! This is how you have lived, you have fought hard and tried hard, always worked hard to keep joy in your daily life for your family. This is what a mother does!

You have inspired me, Sarah Joy, to be more joyful. Me, who tends to be too serious, too thoughtful, too touchy, too rigid! I have enjoyed getting to know you and learning your simple lessons of life through your blog. How can it be you only have 11 followers?? You should have hundreds who want to understand what you already know!

You have cancer and soon, your fight will be over. Soon, a new mission will begin. Your time is not over. I promise you, bigger and better things are coming for you to do! And you will be there every step of the way with your family. You will see it all, every new "first", every second and third. You will be there in their last sickness and you will be there to welcome them with open arms as they step into their new life with you.

In the meantime, we will miss you. We have loved you. We will pray for you and ask that you will pray for us. I thank you for allowing us to witness what it is like to live a life of cancer. Thank you for teaching us what it means to live with joy, to appreciate everything that we tend to take for granted.

And now we will take your lessons and try to use them in our daily life, to live with Joy, to appreciate the little things, to enjoy the time we have. Because this life is not forever. It's simply a leap and a bounce into the next. I wanted you to know this Sarah, that I try to live my life with joy. I try to remember to smile and am rewarded when someone smiles back. I try to not take myself too seriously. I try to relax when things aren't going my way. This is because of you. You have been an example to me how to live with joy despite what life may bring.

You have been a thumbprint in my life and the lives of so many. Your life of cancer has been a witness to us. We will not forget; we will always remember: live with joy!

"You may notice that I have a tendency to speak of myself using the word "we". We have breast cancer. We have tests, radiation, get chemo, feel sadness, loss, hope, love, JOY and gratitude. In the face of all that Cancer is, we live, we cry, we laugh. I think of my life in terms of we, because of you...
From the beginning, you jumped on this path with me. You held me in your thoughts, held me in your prayers. You have given me your time, your money, you have cleaned our house, cared for our children and dog, you have organized fundraisers, you have wrapped me in prayer shawls,... and helped me continue to live my life true to me. 
I am blessed to have you in my life. I am grateful beyond measure. Thank you..."  -- Sarah Joy

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