Friday, February 14, 2014

Parking Lot Friends

This week was a week of 'Events'. I turned 39 (yikes), a good friend passed from cancer and this time of year marks my own anniversary with cancer. Three years already - seems like yesterday and so long ago all at the same time.

Today we head out to say our final goodbye's to Kristin. A mom of young kids, wife, daughter, sister, and friend to many. Thinking of the great hole she leaves behind has got me remembering her. And I feel the need to somehow memorialize what she was to me. I know she was so much more then my few memories of her but if we each share how she touched our lives we get a picture of the whole of who she was.

We met when our girls entered kindergarten together. Our school was a small country school with a parking lot made for visiting. Quickly we got to know each other -- the newbies and the regulars and even a few teachers congregating by the fence waving goodbye to our kiddos as they bounced up the stairs single file. And we'd catch up on each others lives, happenings in the school, laughing and chatting but also sharing the hard things.

And when the school board decided to close our school we banded together and fought with all we had to keep it open. To keep our community intact. This was the first time I saw Kristin's never give up attitude. She fought and spurred us to fight to the bitter end. If nothing else, that time solidified friendships between all of us that have lasted in our hearts and I think will last for a long time to come.

It was with these parking lot friends that I shared my fresh diagnosis of cancer three years ago. It was one of the first times I had to say the words out loud and I chose these women to share it with. I knew I could trust them with my sorrow, fear, and shock. And they gathered around me like I knew they would. With prayers and meals and encouraging words at the crucial times.

I remember Kristin stopping me in the parking lot the next day, taking my arms and giving me a small shake while staring directly into my eyes.

"I'm leaning in," she said. "I know you are a private person and you don't always share everything thats going on but I want you to know I'm leaning in and I'm going to ask you questions and call you and give you hugs. I want to know how you're doing and what your doctors say. Some people say I'm a bit overwhelming so if I am you just tell me to back off." Then she hugged me and we went our separate ways and I never did tell her to back off.

She celebrated the passing milestones with me: surgery completed, chemo #1 finished, then chemo #2 and at the end, after a year and a half of treatment she dropped off a celebration gift she had been holding for me and we rejoiced that I was in the clear.

It was only weeks later that she called me with the news of her own cancer diagnosis. The shock and tears and the why's - It didn't seem fair - but as I tell my kids about 3 times every day - life isn't at all fair. So I moved from the supportee to a supporter of sorts. Sharing small bits of wisdom for chemo nausea (milkshakes) to the loaning of wigs and scarves (beau beau - stupid name but great scarves) and the commiserating of shared experiences.

Unfortunately her journey with cancer would not have the positive outcomes mine has had. And she is gone. My Fierce friend. Fierce in love - for her kids, her family, her friends. Fierce against injustice, Fierce in Life. She is gone and she will be missed by so many.

I'll leave you with a conversation that I had with my 11 year old daughter Ana just a few weeks ago:

Her and I were talking one day about praying for healing. She asked why she should even bother to pray that way - it never works. (to be clear - I think this was in regards to her own sore throat!)

I said, "You know Ana, I don't know why God chooses to heal some people and not others. That's going to be on my list of questions to ask Jesus when I get to heaven."

"You mean we get to talk to him and ask him questions - like face to face?" she asked.

"Yep. I think we do."

Without a beat of hesitation she retorted: "Well, that's going to be a long line up!"

I have to admit that I've never thought that there might be a line up in heaven to chat with Jesus - but she may just be right!

To my other Parking Lot Friends - I appreciate you more then you know.  Feel free to share your own memories of Kristin in the comments.


  1. My heart is overwhelmed and my thoughts are to jumbled to share anything coherent at the moment... But thank you Heidi for so eloquently describing your thoughts on this most difficult day. The other day I described Kristin as my "sister-Mom Dunach friend". It is quite the "club". So glad that you are part of it too! (as for the other members ... You know who you are and I love you too!) P.S. Please tell Ana that she might have to wait a little longer because I'll be in that line up too!

    1. Sister-Mom Dunach friend is exactly accurate Nancy. Miss those days!

  2. Heidi, what a journey you and Kristen have travelled!! We may question God, as Ana does, but we do know He is in control. I am so thankful that you are cancer free, and so saddened for the passing of Kristen. I fondly remember all the "shared" conversations, prayers, and times together in the Dunach parking lot. The friendships, the closeness, the caring, the loving, will always be remembered.

  3. I just had my 3 year anniversary this week. All was well. I was thinking of you today, and just wanted to stop in and say hello! Glad all is well.

    1. Lena - Thanks for stopping by. I check up on you every so often too! It's my 3 year anniversary this spring as well. My MRI is coming up on Friday and I'm praying for no news at all! Take care