…“untimely goodbyes and finding a new balance…”(Blog post by Kristy LeMond June 2012)
“So, I know a lot of you know I am back, maybe some of you still don’t and so this is mostly for you. I have been debating on whether I want to keep this blog going, on whether I wanted to update what has been happening recently on this page. It has so perfectly documented this past year full of new adventures and beautiful travels that it just seemed wrong to “taint” it with something negative, or so I originally thought. Now I’m thinking, what has to make this next experience negative? Why can’t it be a good thing? I think this could be my most epic adventure yet and so I’m letting go of my preconceived notion that this blog has to be only about the beautiful parts of my adventures because really, it’s all about the journey.”
It was a journey indeed…
The house was filled with many friends and family holding vigil while Kathy (Kristy’s mom) and I prayed at Kristy’s bedside. It was the most amazing experience that I have ever witnessed, and to share it with this beautiful young woman’s mother made it even more sacred. A huge, excited smile spread across Kristy’s face, she took a deep breath, and then she was gone. Kathy and I looked at each other for validation that what we just witnessed really did happen. Only a few days earlier, I had asked Kristy who she wanted with her when she passed on…she said, “I want my mom, and I want you there to help.” The fact that it was the first time both Kathy and I were alone with Kristy, made her untimely passing even more surreal.
It has now been five years since that May Day--five years of amazing transformations for all who were blessed by this earth angel. Kristy not only has scholarships and funds in her honor, which offer support locally as well as around the world, she also has touched thousands of those who carry her spirit with them every day.
As a young teenager, I remember Kristy was always happy and very inquisitive. When I was her church youth group leader, she kept me on my toes with her deep questions and curious mind. Her dimpled smile came to life with every vibrant laugh. Kristy was an avid volleyball player, a sorority sister, an excellent student, and a servant at heart. She enjoyed traveling abroad and doing missionary type work with the extremely under-privileged. Kristy ended up in Chile to be a teacher--a place where she felt very at home. It was during her time in Chile that she discovered she had cancer. Saddened to have to leave the students whom she came to love, she returned home in June 2012 to begin treatment.
I reconnected with Kristy one week before her death, April 23, 2013. Prompted by one of her best friends, Missy, I reached out to offer my help as Kristy laid in a UW hospital bed. She asked for help with coming to grips with her reality---she was dying. She feared that her faith must be wavering since she no longer believed that she would be healed. I encouraged Kristy with the truth that the cancer would never be able to rob her of the miracle, because Her Life was the miracle.
After helping her re-frame her mindset about faith and death, she became eager to return home to share the rest of her days surrounded by her family and friends. Kristy wanted all the barriers to be broken around the subject of death and dying. She felt as if there was an elephant in the room, and so she asked me to talk to her friends and family about what to expect as her body was dying, and she wanted to be present for the meeting. She wanted all of them to learn what she did, that God had not failed her and that there were miracles going on all around her. I found the fact that she wanted to be a part of the conversation not only brave and courageous, but selfless. Kristy understood it would be yet another opportunity for her to bring comfort to her every person in the room, which included her brother, parents, uncles and aunts, and about thirteen friends (and some of their parents). We laughed and cried, shared stories, watched movies, played games and puzzles, and celebrated the life of one amazing young woman.
Once she felt free to express all her feelings about the process, yes even the not so happy ones, then her even vivacious Kristy personality took over. Her desire to die well and to make meaning of the process became her new mission. Kristy was feeling very tired and would get frustrated that she couldn’t do more. I reminded Kristy daily that the very thing she stood for—helping and serving others—required someone to be the receiver of that help. It was now her turn to let others be the helper and she the receiver. This was the part of her journey that was most difficult, as it is for most of us. Kristy learned that she had to practice trusting in God’s promise to bring peace; she could not just make herself feel at peace. Every day she crossed off something on her to do list…write a letter, read a letter, make a phone call to a friend…she was becoming better at just being and trusting.
Lying on her couch, an oxygen tube helping her breath and too weak to move around, Kristy was determined to read each and every email before she passed away. With the help from her brother, many friends, and family she read the heart felt words from all who admired and adored her. The process took about 5 hours, and upon finishing the last of over 500 emails from friends, family, and strangers spanning around the world, Kristy said it best, “I lived a good life! Not many people get to hear how they have touched the lives of their friends and family. I did it right!”
That May 1st afternoon, many of us gathered at the nearby park to support each other, share in our grief, and to release balloons in Kristy’s honor. We looked up and there was a rainbow in the sunny sky, almost like a skid mark to Heaven. Kristy said she wanted to do something big at the end…she has continued to do big things despite being here only in spirit.
Gratitude, honor, and humility are a few feelings that come to mind each day I think of the blessings I have received for being a part of her journey.
Thank you, LeMond family, Sisters of the Heart, and all the friendships I have received as a result of our shared experience. I reflect this morning on how Kristy’s powerful spirit continues to keep us connected and reminded of the significance of sunflowers and the mission to Wake Up and Live!