As I work with my T more and more, I have learned to become more aware of myself and where I am at in the healing process.
Growing up, April Fools Day was one of my favorite holidays. I loved "cooking" up the perfect prank for my parents, my sisters, and my friends. I would spend weeks preparing for the perfect trick that would get everybody.
During the summer, right before I turned 15 years old, I had the opportunity to go to a week long camp program for my church. Hundreds of teenagers from age 14 to 18 come from all over the world to attend this camp program. We were placed in groups of about 10 girls and 10 boys. On the first day, we met the individuals in our group and played several "get-to-know-you" games. During one of the games, we were paired up with a random person in our group. I was paired up with another girl named Jessica.
As a 14 year old girl, I was extremely quiet and shy. I didn't share my feelings, or really anything for that matter, with anyone. I was not outgoing or spunky or happy. I was just existing.
Jessica, however, was the complete opposite of me. Just by looking at her, I could tell she was full of energy, extremely friendly, bubbly and outgoing. She probably had hundreds of friends and one of the most popular girls at her school. She was a person who I would have never had the opportunity to meet except for at this camp program.
I felt very awkward, at first, being paired with Jessica. She was so nice and caring towards me that it really freaked me out. I somehow managed to get through the questions our camp leaders had us ask each other and then continued the rest of the day trying to hide from her.
But Jessica wouldn't have that.
Every opportunity that presented itself, and even in moments that didn't, she would acknowledge me and talk to me. She was so persistent that I constantly assumed that she had some sort of agenda to hurt me. I couldn't trust anyone, after all.
On the third day of this camp week, the group split up and went to separate locations - the girls with the girls, the boys with the boys. Our camp leader had us sit in a semi-circle, and then she told us that we each would share something we went through that was really hard for us.
Our leader paired us up again, and again Jessica was my partner.
Jessica volunteered to go first, of course. I assumed she would share something unimportant, like her boyfriend had just dumped her or that her pet gerbil died when she was 7. But what I didn't expect was what she did share.
She started out by saying that 3 months prior she went to the doctor for a regular check up, and her doctor had found something abnormal. For a month, she was referred to doctor after doctor after doctor until finally they found what was wrong. She was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer and she only had a few months left to live.
I was stunned. Shocked. Speechless.
I couldn't speak. I just stared at my lap.
Jessica scooted her chair right up next to mine and put her arm around me. She whispered in my ear and said, "I know what yours is."
My eyes filled up with tears but I held them in. I felt myself nod in response. She was the only person who had ever acknowledged my searing pain from the abuse I had gone through and was currently going through.
We were inseparable the rest of the week. Jessica spent every waking moment making me laugh. I hadn't laughed in such a long time! As we got to know each other better, we realized how alike we were. We lived about 15 minutes away from each other and even went to the same school in 7th grade. She also had an identical twin sister.
The end of the week came much too quickly....
As it turned out, we ended up going to the same high school, both of us starting our sophomore year. Jessica's strength and kindness never ceased to amazed me.
Her birthday was April Fools Day and, try as she might, could never convince anybody that it was her birthday! She was the kind of person who would walk up to a total stranger and strike up a conversation. Sometimes she would even talk to them like she remembered them from her past, "Hey! Oh my gosh I haven't seen you since second grade! Do you remember me? I was the girl who gave you the purple flower on the first day of school." Of course the person would be completely clueless, but not wanting to be rude would reply, "Oh yeah, I kind of remember that."
A quirk that I loved about her was that she would only write with Crayola markers. Every assignment and test would be in pink Crayola marker. She also had to crumple up everything before she could turn it in or give it to someone. It got so bad that the school had to make her a 504 plan to accommodate these things. Every note she ever wrote to me is in pink Crayola marker and you can she the crumpled marks on it.
At each doctor's appointment her doctor would tell her that she only had a little time left. When she would see me later, she would say "I'm going to live past that date." At first I didn't think she could do it although I wished with all my heart that she would. Every three months she would still be alive and well, kicking her cancer in the butt.
When she passed the year mark of being diagnosed, she set the record for the longest survivor of her type of cancer.
We continued to be best friends throughout high school, each passing year putting the record for longer and longer. Her doctor's couldn't believe the miracle that was happening.
Both of us went off to separate colleges but still kept in contact every day. Jessica kept her word each time she said "I'm going to live past that date."
During the summer after our freshman year in college, Jessica passed away - the longest survivor of her type of cancer.
I think about her every April Fools Day because it was her birthday and her favorite holiday. I find myself having a difficult time on April Fools Day because I don't have her there giving me the greatest ideas to trick people and because I think I lost some of my "spark" when she passed away.
Jessica, I hope you're having just as much fun, or more, in Heaven right now. Rest in peace, friend.