Facebook is a terrible way to learn a friend has died.
A heavy feeling settled in my chest as my newsfeed swarmed with strangers writing messages to Julie about shared memories.
When I saw the first “RIP,” I crumpled into a mess of tears.
Julie and I met in the radiation waiting room at MD Anderson Cancer Center. In May 2011, I reported to Waiting Room J each weekday at my assigned time. It didn’t take long to recognize the familiar faces of those with similar appointment times.
Julie struck up a conversation with me during my second week of radiation. She was about my age and recognized me from the 9th floor Sarcoma Center waiting room. (Cancer demands a lot of time in waiting rooms.) Although she was clearly in pain from the growing tumor in her leg, her smile was brilliant, shining from a face adorned with a spunky, color-streaked wig.
We bonded quickly over the chemotherapy regimen we’d both endured and the experience of being moms with cancer. We shared our life stories and cancer stories, and I learned that while chemo caused my tumor to shrink like a snowball in a frying pan, Julie’s tumor grew steadily and ominously.
We celebrated the end of Julie’s radiation, and she stood proudly beside me as I rang the bell at the end of mine. We planned to see each other when I returned to Houston six weeks later for surgery. But by then, Julie was gone.
I never found out exactly how she died. When you make friends in a radiation waiting room you don’t know each other’s people. I never met her friends or family. I had no one to grieve with, no one to share common memories with, no one to answer my questions about her final days. Did she suffer? Did she die in the hospital? Did she have enough warning to say good-bye to her son? I’ll never know.
I shared this piece over at (in)courage . . . a beautiful community of women seeking connection with each other as they follow Christ. I’d love for you to head over there to read the rest of the piece about my struggle to trust God in an answer-less place.
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