But there is something to be said about surviving, right? Enduring. It's a commandment. And I survived long enough to come back to myself and feel joy--which is another commandment, a reason for living.
So, coincidentally or not, this deep funk coincided with the news that my bff Erin Capser was diagnosed with metastatic--terminal--breast cancer, which had aggressively spread into her liver, bones, and lymph system. This did not make for the happiest of holiday seasons, and added to the dread I always feel in January and February. Blessedly, Erin's first treatments helped her tremendously and she didn't get terribly ill (except chemo days). So Heidi Egan and I were able to spend time with her in January and it was pretty much like old times except for the naps and the wigs. Erin even brought her wonderful family to spend Easter with our family this year, and she was doing pretty well. We had a glorious, happy holiday (I will blog all of this with photos later, of course!).
But everything after May was bad news. Treatments didn't work. Cancer spread and killed her liver. Miraculously, she gathered the strength to take a cruise with her family the first week of July. They had a beautiful trip. She was sick the day after they came home (7/10), released from chemo and put on hospice care the next day (7/11), felt better the next day when Heidi and I arrived to help (7/12), and then semi-conscious, medicated, sleepy, child-like, pain-free for a week as her body shut down. She crossed the veil in peace, at her home with her husband, children, father, and brother two days after I went home (7/19). It has been the most bittersweet, spiritual experience of my life aside from creating my own family.
I will continue to record my memories, feelings, testimony, and lessons I have learned, but today I just wanted to share the remarks I prepared for her memorial, held Saturday, July 30th in Lehi, Utah.
The Miracle of The Young Ones
I am one-third of a great miracle.
In August 1994, I had been home from my mission for three months. I returned to Provo determined to keep up the habits and spirit of mission life. My dear friend Heidi was looking for a roommate and a change of atmosphere, so I moved in with her at Rupper #5. Heidi and I shared one room, and the other room was occupied by an LDS Business College student from Spain, Piedad Fernandez. We wondered who would share the room with Piedad.
Enter Erin Lyman. One afternoon, we came home to find a black-haired, Doc-Marten-clad Goth girl hanging a Depeche Mode poster over the bed in the other bedroom. Heidi and I exchanged looks that said, “Uh-oh!” Was the New Girl gonna be on board with our plans for a new, more Christ-centered home? It looked like a “Maybe not.”
All our worries disappeared within only a few minutes when Erin began to tell us about herself. We learned that she had been baptized 10 months earlier in California. As she told her conversion story, something in my heart just burst. I believe in karma, and I believe in “do unto others”, so I thought to myself, I am going to treat this sweet girl the way I hope and pray someone treats the new members I left behind in North Carolina. I would try to be the best example I could be, invite the Spirit into our home, discuss scriptures and gospel questions, and most importantly, try to know and love her the way Jesus does.
Over the school year, Heidi, Erin, and I shared more than our fair share of laughs, sacred experiences, freaky dates, and spiritual growth. We didn’t know it then, but that year bound us together with a sacred tie. We prepared each other—or rather The Lord prepared us, together—for all the next big steps we would take in life. It was the spring board of Rupper Five that launched us into the relationships and educational paths that gave us the blessed and beautiful lives and families we have enjoyed the past 20 years.
I could go on and on about the ways Erin has had my back over the years, and maybe someday I will write it all down. We have had the most low-maintenance friendship—we never asked anything of each other. And yet when life threw me curve balls or hard questions, Erin would always emerge as my support, my voice of reason, my courage, and my cheerleader. And always with sass that made me laugh. But when cancer came, our laughter subsided a bit, and our feelings of sisterhood emerged. Our eternal bond became obvious.
So now I stand here, one third of a miraculous sisterhood. One third is gone for now. Heidi and I will try to follow in Erin’s faithful footsteps. I stand as one third and I stand all amazed.
Amazed that God saw fit to entrust his precious re-born daughter to me for a school year.
Amazed at the marvelous work and mighty change the Atonement of Jesus Christ wrought in the life of Erin Cathleen.
Amazed at how Erin harnessed the power of the light that came into her life and poured it over her four brilliant, valiant, courageous children and husband.
Amazed at the perfectly faithful and focused way she completed her mission on earth.
I stand all amazed and grateful for the opportunity to follow in her footsteps ‘til we meet at Jesus’ feet.