Monday, March 8, 2010

Something Bigger than Oneself

This is a hard post to write, but it's a foundation of who I am today. Looking back through my past blogs, and my mind, I know that I haven't fully explained this and how it has affected me to most people - everyone is kind of in the dark about it. I'm going to try to make this an explain-all post, because I think everyone should know about it, and how it's changed me - for good. I'm sorry it's so long.

Two years ago, a very good friend of mine died. She was 19 years old.

I met Patty when we in kindergarten. We were 5, and in the same class. We played together, and, ironically, had the same Halloween costume. She left All Saints after that year, but she continued to play on our soccer team through high school. We spent every fall together. When high school rolled around, we found ourselves not only on a high school level church soccer team together, but we also found ourselves in youth group together. It was this that made us very good friends.
We were in youth group with an amazing group of people. We were a combination of both public school and private school kids - but within youth group we were all equals. There was no issue of money or status or popularity, because we were all the same - young Catholics. We traveled to Washington D.C. together, Mexico for a mission trip, and we worked together in various outreach programs. All of us were fantastically close - and it was the time of our lives. We ate ice cream from Oberweis, drank 2 liters of Strawberry Fanta together, and made jokes about everything imaginable. Patty and I were both part of the core group, and there was nothing that we couldn't talk about with each other. 
 After high school, most of us went off to universities - Truman, Mizzou, Westminster - we were scattered everywhere. Patty joined the Navy. She was a free spirit, and she wanted to see the world and help people at the same time. Patty called me the first week of January. I was at the zoo, in the penguin house (it's amazing how you remember the little things). Her eyesight was going blurry. I've always had the worst eyesight in the group, so she called me first. I told her that it was strange that it happened all at once, and that she should probably see a doctor or optometrist. Little did I know, this was the beginning of the end. We kept in touch, and it started scaring me how much was going on. By January 11th, she was blind in her left eye. By January 31st, she was having frequent migraines. On February 4th, half of one of her lungs was removed for a biopsy. She started to have seizures and short-term memory loss. On February 14th, she came home to Missouri (she had been in Norfolk, VA). She couldn't walk anymore, and couldn't eat without help. A week later, on February 21st, she was diagnosed with meningitis (which is not the first diagnoses), but it ended up being a false positive. Anytime we talked to her, she'd tell us she was getting better - but most of the time she wasn't coherent. She'd say things that didn't make sense, very random things. On March 2nd, she went into a coma. She died on March 3rd. There still hadn't been any diagnosis.

After six months, and a very intense autopsy, it was determined that Patty had contracted both ADEM and AHLE, the later of which is almost always fatal. Even if the doctors had been able to diagnose her, there is no treatment or cure.

There's a lot of things that make this really really difficult. Many people don't understand, in fact, I don't think anyone who hasn't experienced this knows what it's like. It's hard. There's no one to be angry at - Patty wasn't killed by a drunk driver or a common cancer. There's no walk or benefit that we can attend to help. The diseases that Patty had were so one knows what they are. Patty was so young, and so good. She was the best out of all of us - she would use an entire paycheck to purchase a birthday gift, even if it meant not eating lunch for a week. She would help anyone and everyone she came across. She would have been a fantastic mother one day, she loved children so much. It's a life that's just been snuffed - there was so much there. It's hard to say good-bye to someone like that - your own age. It just makes you feel so mortal. My life, everything I have, could be gone tomorrow. So many people put things ahead of what really matters - friends and family.

Patty's death has brought our yg together, but at the same time, it's torn us apart. It's hard to be with each other when she's not there. I'll never be able to think of Chucks again (her favorite shoe) or eat Sour Patch Kids without hearing her giggle and scream, "You ate my kids!" It's hard to see her parents, to know that they'll never see their youngest daughter walk down the aisle or have a child of her own.

Patty was buried two years ago today. It was my 20th birthday. I will never celebrate a birthday without hearing "Eagle's Wings" or thinking of her. But one day, I will be able to live life like her. She wouldn't have wanted us to mourn, but if it had been her, she would have. Today, I work on healing. I'm always working on it. I'm working on celebrating the life that was put on Earth to do something better - but accomplished it way too soon.

The Newspaper Article about her death: 70 Days to Live

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