When I was first diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis I ventured onto a few blogs of other AS warriors. Really, it was too soon for me. I wasn't ready to read about their lives, their pain, their realities. Then I stumbled across one particular blog - she called herself Gitzen Girl and the top of her blog read "Choose Joy". It didn't take long for me to realize she was amazing - housebound and plagued with the worst AS has to offer, yet she was radiant, unwavering in her faith, full of life and hope. I read - in awe and in silence. I never commented, never emailed her. I kept my distance. Maybe it was because parts of her reminded me so much of myself. It hit too close to home. If the disease could do that to her, couldn't it do that to me? We were both women in our mid-30s, both believers, both bloggers, both a bit spunky. I didn't know what to say so I said nothing. In fact, I stopped visiting her blog for a little while.
Last week, while I was in Hawaii, a friend posted a message about Sara. It didn't sound hopeful, but I wasn't prepared to read that she was at home - with hospice - surrounded by her family. Resting. Waiting. Waiting for the end, or the beginning. Her health took a turn for the worse and her body is slowly but surely shutting down. It is just a matter of time.
I don't know how to process this.
I'm angry that this stupid disease has cut her beautiful life short.
I'm angry that I let fear keep me at a distance. Oh, how I wish I would have told her how much she inspired me, how much I admired her strength, her faith, her incredible determination to choose joy.
I guess I thought there would always be tomorrow, next week, next month. I thought we had time. I didn't think she would leave us so soon. I didn't think the disease we both share would actually take her life. I still can't believe it.
It only takes a couple clicks of my mouse to find someone else in the blog world writing about Sara at this very moment - grieving the end but celebrating her life. She has certainly left a legacy - one of grace, love and faithfulness.
I can only find comfort in knowing that you will soon be made whole. You will run, dance and jump again. No more pain. No more sorrow. No more canes or walkers. No more hand fulls of medication. No longer will you be confined to your four walls. Thank you for choosing joy, even in the midst of unimaginable pain. Thank you for choosing to share your life, your faith, and your hope with us. Your fingerprints are all over us and we will never be the same. You, my friend, have fought the good fight. You have finished the race. You have kept the faith. You, Sara, are my hero.
All my love,