I graduated from high school in a class of 23 seniors. And then I flew 3,000 miles across the country to become a freshman in a school of 30,000. We had no family nearby and I knew no one. The dorms were full so I stayed with friends of my parents those first few weeks. But one day near the end of September, I got a call that a room had opened on campus.
The next morning I went to check it out. I meandered through the covered walkways searching for the right building when I saw a couple of girls, a tall blond and a friendly brunette, walking in front of me. They looked nice and so I asked, “which way to T-Hall?” “That’s where we live,” they said. “You can come with us.” As it turned out, they lived on the same floor where the open room was located.
Catie, the brunette, became one of my first friends at BYU. She was happy and easy going with friendly eyes and a quick smile. She was from Tennessee so we immediately had Southern rapport and I loved to listen to her play the fiddle (though she didn’t do it often enough if you ask me). She and about eight other girls happily welcomed me into their group and our first year of college was filled with races in the laundry carts (and on my roomate’s motorized wheelchair), “white trash registration nights” where we dressed up like white trash (I don’t know who picked the theme) and stayed up to call in right at midnight to register for classes (this was back before online registration), football games, bus trips to Spanish Fork to watch movies in what amounted to a projector in a barn, tumbling on the extra mattresses in my room, strip spelling bees, and about a gagillion more pointless but SO fun activities.
The following year, our large group split into three smaller branches as we all moved to off-campus housing. Over the next few years some of us lost touch (luckily refinding each other recently through blogs and Facebook), but Catie and I always remained friends. We both enjoyed going to late night dollar movies in our pajamas. And oh, good golly miss molly, was she ever a movie talker! “Why are they doing that?” “What is going to happen?!” “How is she going to get out of that?” And I’d have to say, “Catie I’ve never seen this either and I’m not a movie talker, so let’s not talk.” It makes me smile to remember.
She left on her mission a few months before I left on mine and when she got back she found a wonderful man “who didn’t bug her” to marry. They had two beautiful children and then a couple years ago when she was pregnant with her third she was diagnosed with cancer. I cried myself to sleep the night I found out. They took the baby pre-maturely so Catie could continue her chemo/radiation treatments. And soon enough the baby (Sarah Grace) and Catie were well and whole and healthy.
But after a year in the clear, we found out this past Spring that the cancer had returned, this time in her lungs, and that it is inoperable. As soon as I heard, I called Mandy, another friend from freshman year and together we cried for our Catie.
While I was home last month I drove up to North Carolina to see Catie and her home and her family. We didn’t have much time, less than an hour, but we sat and we talked and we laughed and we cried. Even now, I cry. Not because of hopelessness (because it’s never hopeless) but because of love–love for my friend, and all of her strength. Love for who she is and who she was. Love for who she is becoming.
And though she’s tired, oh is she ever tired, she still fights. And though there are no answers to the why’s, she still believes. And though this part of her life is not something she’d choose, she knows what she’s living for.
Catie, we love you and pray for you and believe for you. And we’re here. For you.