Today I spoke at Julie's memorial service and here is what I said...
"Hi, my name is Jenny, I am a friend and coworker of Julie's, and until Julie got cancer we were just normal work friends. We talked about stuff around the office and had casual conversations about our personal lives. She gave me sweet advice about not sweating the small stuff since I was planning my wedding when I met her in 2002. She knew what she was talking about in that department, having definitely showed a great example of an amazing marriage looked like. It was after she was diagnosed, and she started her blog, it was then that I got to deeply know her. And through that, she changed me. Her dignified battle and humor and wit through it has been an inspiration to me, and how I live my life. I wanted to do something for her, something tangible to show support, so I organized a team to walk in a cancer benefit walk in her name. She was touched, so deeply.
I was thinking the other day about how much Julie would have liked to go on for years with the title of 'cancer survivor', and how unfair it is that she cannot, I was reminded that it is something did get to experience. During that first Making Strides Cancer walk that we did together in her name, she got to make a lap with the other survivors. She was in remission for the first time and feeling strong enough to finish the entire 5K holding a sign she's fashioned with a long (heavy) wooden pole and a pillow case with the numerous names of the people who inspired her and who been affected by cancer. As I watched Julie make that survivor lap, with tears in my eyes, I both was proud to know her and honored to witness her own pride in herself. She did it. Of course that wasn't the end of Julie's battle, but I'm so glad she was able to know that victory, feel that victory, and be recognized in such an exhibition as the true survivor that she is.
As I said, I came to know Julie more intimately through her blog, and her words touched me. As I read back through it this week, looking for a few meaningful passages I wanted to share, they were numerous. There was no way I could do her justice reading just a few lines. I'm so grateful that we have her writing to look back over and to remember her...to continue to be inspired by her.
A few days after her last chemo in April of 2009, she was writing about looking forward to a day of feeling not yucky (she promised that was an technical oncology term). She wrote of the ailments that she still struggled with and how she couldn't wait for those to pass. And she wrote:
In September 2009 she wrote of feeling like she was finally "Back in the game" after sitting through 2 years of her life, sitting on the sidelines...she was having a hard time shaking what she described beautifully as "cancer colored lenses". The (rose) optimism, the (blue) grief, the (green) envy, the (black) fear, the (red)anger. This speaks to her wisdom.
But just today I was reading The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving, and came across this:“Human beings are remarkable – at what we can learn to live with,” ... “If we couldn’t get strong from what we lose, and what we miss, and what we want and can’t have,” ... “then we couldn’t ever get strong enough, could we? What else makes us strong?” ...
She wrote of those with terminal cancer before she was speaking of herself and she said:
Could she have possibly known how her survival and ongoing fight with cancer could lead to be such a source of courage for those of us who loved her? For friends, known and unknown.
"But for someone for whom the “new normal” is to live their life with ongoing treatment and an unsure future, is there life without the glasses? To deal with it at all is something [for them] to be proud of; and it is our job, as their friends and family, to be on the outside of whatever lenses they wear, providing a pool of love and normalcy for them to dip into when they need it, and can handle it.
Of course, that is true for even us curable cancer patients – I had an ocean of love and normalcy around me due to all the friends and family who supported me and let me know they were there even when things were difficult. I would not have had the courage to remove the cancer lenses without them. I can only hope to be part of such a source for those I love who need it in their turn"
Julie, now that your battle is finished, and you did not win it the way you would have like to defined "win". I hope you know that your life made a difference. If it made such an impact on someone like me, who only knew you for a relative few number of years, and we only scratched the surface of who you really are, I can't imagine the souls you have touched during your fifty years on this earth, and those you will continue to touch through your beautiful words and through your legacy.
Thank you, dear friend.