Saturday, April 14, 2012

Faith: An Action and a Choice - #25 Tribute

I believe wisdom is earned. And it is usually earned by discovering truths through faith during devastating circumstances and trials. A couple of months ago I had the privilege of having a life-changing conversation with a truly wise friend who will forever be in my memory: Jessica Hunt. I have wanted to pay tribute to this amazing woman and her wise advice to me for a while now but haven't found adequate words to express my love for her and the way she has changed my life until now, at the one month anniversary of her passing.

First, a little background, I had the opportunity of meeting Jess through a mutual friend in High School. We played and talked a couple of times but barely really knew each other. Luckily for me, last December our relationship began to blossom into a beautiful, close friendship. It's hard for me not to regret all the memories we could have had together, but alas, I know God brings certain angels into our lives during the exact time we need them. Jess is definitely one such angel who has an impeccable way with timing.

Because my memory isn't as fresh as it was a couple of weeks ago, the following is some thoughts I wrote the night of Jessica's viewing and some of the memories we shared together as well as her wise advice that will resound within me forever:

            Shortly after arriving to the viewing of my sweet friend, Antonella, Jessica's amazing mom approached me near the coffin where her sweet daughter lied. While embracing me, she said, "Jess always looked forward to seeing you. Thank you for making these past few months so memorable for her. She truly loved you." As the line of people wanting to give their condolences accumulated, Jess's mom sweetly announced to the people next in line, "This is one of Jess's best friends, she needs a moment with Jess." Then turning to me, Antonella whispered in her Italian accent, "Take all the time you need, Sweetheart."  
            Hesitantly, I walked towards the coffin. Jess looked absolutely stunning with a tiara nestled into her dark, curly hair. Her face was relaxed, finally free from the burdens of the world and free from the pain she had endured for 24 years. I held her hand, something I did when I visited her in her last days, and half-wondered why she was unresponsive. Then, a memory began to play through my mind. It was my first visit with Jess. She admitted nervously, "I've always been hesitant on how to befriend you because you are just too sporty for me, and I'm too girly, so I hope we find something in common." Amazed at her forth-right honesty, which I later learned came from her Italian heritage, I made a mental note to make sure we would in fact become the closest of friends despite her obvious love for butterflies and pixies and mine for basketball and sports.
           As I held her limp hand, the conundrum of our lack of similarities seemed irrelevant: we both knew pain. Then I remembered two nights before she went to the hospital. It was truly one of the most touching experiences of my life. She was on bed rest from pressure sores; I could tell she was having a hard day. I crawled onto her bed next to her and half smiled as I made eye-contact with her. She told me as a matter of fact, "I don't have much time left." Trying to understand her I asked what she meant. She replied, "I'm going to die and I'm ready for it." Admittedly, I was frustrated with the words she was trying to convey to me. I told her that she could still live for years. Very bluntly, she responded, "Pam, God told me it is my time to go." That night we spent hours laughing, crying, and talking about life after death. As I prepared to leave, she looked at me very seriously and half whispered, "Pam, you have to remember to choose faith. It's an action and a choice. It won't just come to you, remember that."
Indeed, I will forever remember that faith is an action and a choice because Jess is absolutely right, it doesn't just come to me. And although Jess's hand was unresponsive the last time I had the opportunity to hold it; I know her heart and spirit comes to visit me often in her angel-like way, and I know Jess was aware of her upcoming death because of her unique relationship with her Father in Heaven. My only hope is that I can develop that same faith she fought unremittingly for during her short, meaningful life. Gratefully, I know that I don't have to do it alone; perhaps, because I'm choosing to have more faith this time. I hope Jess, in all of her Italian stubbornness, won't give up on me in this endeavor to keep trekking.

Jess, in the short time we had together, you taught me everything from faith to endurance to learning how to lighten up during times of high anxiety and stress. You taught me how to love freely and live life in disregard of the meaningless pressures of the world. You taught me compassion during times of insurmountable suffering. And you did all of this through your example. I will forever love you and cherish the time we had together. Until we meet again. Love you so tenderly.