May 1 holds a lot of precious memories for me. Mostly good ones but some sad too. It’s the day one of my childhood best friends, Justin, passed away from a hard-fought battle with Cystic Fibrosis.
Although my memory tends to be pretty poor, I remember the day very vividily and even the week leading up to the day. I remember a strong feeling in my gut that I needed to go spend time with him the day before, and the tear-filled night that followed as my heart was heavy and the Lord was preparing me for his passing. And then the next day, and that same strong gut feeling telling me I needed to go to the hospital at the first chance I got.
And how when I arrived there, I stood outside the room waiting to get the okay from the family to go inside to see him. The nurses’ eyes told me that Justin, body and soul, was no longer there but in heaven. Still I prayed as I waited.
When I walked inside those heavy doors, many relatives stood around and his sweet mom sat at his side. I had the chance to touch his cheek and pray over him and offer my condolences to the family.
The passing of a 16-year-old is emotional and it is never easy but through Justin’s passing the Lord taught me so much. And, little did I know, was preparing my heart for another loss– the passing of my dad– that would happen only 3 short years later.
But I write this post not to bring tears of sadness or pain flooding back but to bring memories of joy and happiness to the forefront.
Justin was a special soul. Anyone who knew him, knew him for his cheeky grin (which usually meant he was up to no good), his signature CF rosy cheeks and his laughter. His life, of course, was littered with the difficulties of managing a terminal illness but it was just as peppered with happiness and optimism.
His life and death taught me to not only make every day count but to not hold back and to act now. In some of the last moments I spent with him, I gave him an early birthday gift that I had been holding onto for a few weeks. I didn’t know that he would be gone before his birthday but I did know that the gift would bring a smile to his face and I wanted he and I to enjoy that moment now and not later. In those last moments he also showed me a card covered with signatures and messages from our classmates. The time friends took to pen a short message to a sick (dying) friend mattered. And rewind all the way back to our elementary school days, when I made the decision to befriend this little, blonde haired boy who was different than everyone else mattered… not only to him but to me.
So, on May 1, I try not to think about what might have been, because truly nothing might have been. His being born and his dying, that was all planned out ahead of time by Our Father. He gave Justin just the exact number of days that were intended for him and I believe Justin used them to be a vibrant, shining example of life-to-the-full even– especially— through the suffering he endured.
May Justin’s life be a reminder to us all that life is short, that God is good and that joy is possible.
With a heart full of fond memories,