This is a second (much requested) guest post from my dear friend, Jennifer Taylor.
It’s been three years today that my cancer diagnosis was confirmed (after having been given “months to live”).
But you don’t have to outlive your prognosis to beat cancer.
The letter enclosed in this post is the ultimate proof that cancer dies at the hands of love.
So find a quiet place, sit down, and listen to a dying friend release her friend into her grief.
We have been given a great privilege.
This is a holy letter.
Ed has been talking to us lately about despair. I’ve felt it, I think we all have.
I felt it all the way down to my toes when I was watching my best friend slip away in 2014.
I knew at the time that there was no way that my feeling of loss could possibly compare to hers but I felt it nonetheless.
When I cried that I could not bear losing such a close friend (singular) she responded by reminding me that she was indeed losing every single friendship she had ever cultivated…every moment of motherhood yet to come…every romance hoped for in the future.
I think it was at that point that my quiet, stoic despair turned into a full bodied, well defined case of grief!
I started letting my tears show and I admitted to myself and a few close friends that my active grieving had begun even before her last breaths were taken.
Ever the perfectionist, I wanted to be sure I was doing this grieving thing correctly…so I sat on the edge of the bed and very matter of fact…asked her what she expected me to do after she was gone.
In effect, what should my grief look like?
How could I do justice to the loss of this once in a lifetime friendship?
She pointed to her iPad and told me to find the note titled “Letter to Jen.”
I had no idea how much thought she had put into this topic.
Of all of our hundreds of conversations, I can honestly say this one meant the most.
I had been brave enough to ask her how she wanted to be grieved and she had been bold enough to answer!
This is real life y’all!
How simple is this?
Ask the tough questions!
The blessings that come in the answers can’t be counted because they are endless!
“Jen, you asked how I expect you to live without me and how I want you to grieve my loss.
Well I have thought about that a lot.
I’ve wept, I’ve prayed and I think I know what you need to do to survive.
It won’t be easy and it won’t be pretty but so what?!
It is much more important that your grieving process be healing than anything else.
I want you to completely fall apart, to lose your shit and look for a window to climb out of to get away from the pain.
I hope you cry your eyes out and eat too much ice cream and then go days without stomaching a bite.
I want you to scream and kick and get mad at anyone in your range.
I hope you will beg for all of this to be a dream and lose sleep because you can’t wake up from the nightmare, let it all out without any concern for the looks you may get or the whispers in the air around you.
Beg God to help you and take your pain to him, wrestle him and offer him a bargain to get me back, get mad and tell him its not fair and go silent on him for a little while if you need to.
Ask him why bad things happen to good people and find examples of people who have been spared all of this.
Resent the people who are healthy and avoid the people who have fully recovered from PET scans much worse than mine.
Feel your sadness, your anger, your loss all the way down to your toes and then go numb with desperation.
Listen to me Jen, I want you to let it ALL out and then, after a little time has passed I want you to take a deep breath, to find the strength to look at my picture and to let silent tears fall without a heaving chest.
I hope you will re-read this rant as many times as you need to, and remember that I knew this was coming.
I want you to say no to lunch dates for a little while because you feel guilty for every smile but I don’t want you to do that forever.
I need you to know that when you find the right time, I hope you will have lunches and dinners and weekends full of laughter with friends who should never be compared to me.
I want you to notice I’m not there but let my seat be filled with someone who sees just how amazing your little heart is.
I want you to be happy and to live this big giant life that you have planned.
I want everyone to see the Jen that I see and to know that you are not afraid to love big even if you have to lose a little of your heart along the way.
I love you little girl.
We have had a friendship that rocked many worlds in just a few years.
You know I would never leave you by choice but since it is out of my control, I want to help you get through the process.
Please, please listen to my words and know that what I am trying to say is that it’s ok to do it any way you need to.
I am giving you permission to separate from me and remember who you are on your own.
I promise I will be here with you all the way, somehow I will make sure you can feel me even if you can’t find me.
Keep looking up and one day you will see me again.”
Joanna Francis to Jennifer Taylor,
written June 2013
Jennifer Ervin Taylor BSN, RN
Joanna Francis Living Well Inc.
© Ed Hague. All rights reserved.