Earlier this week Mama Kat posted some writing prompts on her blog. One of them caught my eye right away: Describe a woman who inspired you.
Well, that's easy! My college roommate, whom I have ever since called "my roomie," even though we haven't lived together for nearly 20 years, has inspired me way too many times. I know this might sound strange, but I honestly hope she stops inspiring me. Enough already--no more inspiration, okay?
Oh, don't worry...my roomie knows what I mean. She would probably tell you herself that she's sick and tired of inspiring. Let somebody else inspire for a change!
Which is EXACTLY why she does inspire me--her attitude. Her ability to laugh about all of the bumps and curves life has thrown her way. And let me tell you: If life throws bumps and curves, my roomie must live at the top of the Pigtrail Highway in Northwest Arkansas. Bumps and curves don't even begin to describe what that girl has lived through.
Now, she would NOT want me even telling her story. (Well, unless it were to get us onto the Oprah Show--our lifelong dream! Oprah, are you listening???) But, she wouldn't want me telling her story, and she most definitely would call me crazy to say that she has inspired me. Which is why I didn't call to ask her permission to write about her. I know she would have said, "Don't you have something better to write about?"
So, since I don't have her permission, I won't use her name. Those that know her will know who I am talking about, and will be nodding their heads while reading this.
A hero to me is someone who faces some of life's biggest challenges head-on, walks through them with grace and faith and honesty, and comes through on the other side changed, but not bitter.
I cannot tell you how many times I have watched my roomie face enormous, sick-to-your-stomach challenges, walk through them, and come through the other side changed, and not bitter.
I'm telling you. This girl has had way more than her share of challenges. With each new challenge, we have laughed together that SURELY it is someone else's turn...but, I always understand that inwardly, my dear friend would once again be thrown back to the Start position, only to have to move through each excruciating turn of emotion, loss, physical pain, and the slow baby-steps to recovery.
She faced her first challenge when she was just a girl. She found a lump on her neck, which turned out to be Hodgkin's Disease. To this day I don't hear the name St. Jude's Hospital without smiling, and remembering the stories I've heard my roomie tell about her experience there. She and her family faced that challenge, beat the ugly cancer, and let my friend get back to being a normal cheerleading, car dating, straight-A teenager.
It was during her 20s and 30s that the ugliest of bumps have sent my dear friend reeling back to the Start position, time after time. First, it was the worst kind of Endometriosis, and more surgeries than I can remember. Then it was the long, dark years of infertility. Most people didn't even know those were dark years for her. Outwardly, she celebrated alongside her friends at their baby showers, while inwardly longing and giving herself shots and experiencing the crazy side effects of infertility treatments.
Month after month, year after year, failed pregnancy tests and hopeless hopeful decisions. It wasn't that my roomie was being dishonest by not outwardly showing the sadness and loss she was feeling inside. She was just busy living, and slogging her way through foggy hope. Sure, she shared her feelings about it all when asked. But, mostly, she kept her chest facing forward, her nose in a book or online, always studying and finding answers--answers to some questions she really didn't even want to ask.
At the end of her infertility battle, she and her husband decided to adopt. I'm so glad they did--they have the most beautiful and full of life little girl! But, even the adoption journey was filled with bumps. I'll never forget the day she called to tell me they had been picked, and a daughter was going to be theirs. And then the day when she called to say there had been a complication, and the little girl might not be theirs. And that joyous day I screamed through the phone because she and her husband called on their way to pick up their daughter.
She got to enjoy a year or two of motherhood before she was flung back to survival mode. She faced those 4 words every woman fears the most: She found a lump. And because things are never easy for my dear friend, her lump was cancer. And my dear roomie, she did what she always does when times get suffocatingly difficult: She faces forward, and begins DOING. She began by calling the local American Cancer Society, to connect with local women who survived breast cancer. She met with these women, talked about options, asked questions about double mastectomies, and even was surprised to see a couple of survivors' reconstruction jobs! (Evidently, when you beat that nasty demon cancer and have a beautiful reconstruction job--you are proud to hike up your shirt and show "them" to those who face the same demon.)
Even though I personally haven't had a double mastectomy, I know what it is like to lose your breasts. My friend graciously, and honestly, shared every step of the way with me. My young, prime of her life friend, I might add. At the end of the struggle, the bumps and curves of breast cancer, my roomie isn't bitter. Sure, she'd rather have her healthy breasts back, and all the lost time and emotion, too, I'm sure. Her attitude after it all--the attitude that inspires me so--is "Let's move on. I'm not crazy about what just happened to me, but we got through it as best we could, and now let's get on with living!"
She doesn't blame God for what has happened to her. She says she sure has some questions for Him someday in Heaven! But, rather than dwelling on the why's and what if's, she seems to dwell on clinging to God to get her through the tough times. It's only a slight shift in perspective. But, what a difference that amount of slight makes!
I could keep going. I haven't even mentioned everything. But, I've said enough to show why my roomie inspires me. Not only has she shown me day by day, dark tunnel through dark tunnel, how to face life's worst challenges--but she also has shown me how full life can be after the tunnel. I've seen her face darkness, and find Hope at the end! Isn't that all we want in the end? Hope. Eternal hope.
You know what? A hero always has a face. Heroes aren't just some perfect-world abstract ideas. Heroes are real-life, guts and heartbreaks, triumphs and thrills. My hero has a face, and what a beautiful, full of hope face it is!
She's the really pretty one on the left. (That dorky girl on the right? Well, she's just the scribe.)
Linked up with: