When the World Turns Upside Down…

I am an incredibly visual person, and memories play back for me like movies, miniature recordings of movement, sound, smell, feeling, rather than snapshots. They are vivid. Bright colors. Intense emotion. Detail.

I remember the day my world turned upside down, never again to right itself. I was 13. It was the summer before ninth grade, and I was feeling confident, indestructible. That morning at church I had heard whispers from the gossipy ladies in the vestibule about my friend Krista. She was sick again. It wasn’t good. Krista was one of those girls who never seemed as healthy as the rest of us. She suffered migraines in elementary school that made her leave our classroom in tears, shaking. One moment we’d be riding bikes at a friend’s birthday party. The next moment she’d have appendicitis, or need her gall bladder removed. But this was different. One woman was crying.
In my memory I am in “my chair” in our kitchen, but it is pushed out of the way, up against a wall with the cold cellar door next to me. My mom is all the way across the room stirring whatever she is making for dinner and I can still see the steam rising out of the large pot. There is a world between us. I am hiding in my big chair, legs curled up in front of me, and I know I can ask from here.

“Will Krista be okay? I mean, they can give her chemo and stuff, right?”

“I don’t know, Amy. It really doesn’t look good. They can’t always do something.”

And my world turned upside down…

My mother is a doctor and I was raised to believe in the healing power of medicine. Yes, my mom’s patients sometimes died, but they were old, sickly men and women in dark, stale smelling houses that we visited together when she made house calls in the evenings and weekends. To hear her admit that perhaps the doctors could not save my friend, this fourteen year old girl full of life and laughter, well…it shook something at my core. Something came undone.

Krista died two short months later. I was on a field trip the day she died, and as the bus pulled into the parking lot, the principal boarded before we were dismissed. He asked me, my friend Kim, and our other friend Jill, to come with him, and he walked us into the athletic director’s office just inside the door. I realize now that he probably was unable to make the walk all the way across the school to his own office. And that’s when he told us that she died that morning in her father’s arms. We said goodbye to her on a rainy November day, just one week before I turned fourteen. I wore a pink fuzzy sweater with a black skirt. All black didn’t seem right in a church full of children, many seated in the choir loft or standing in the aisles because the pews could not hold the number of people who loved her.

A lifetime of happiness and joyous, fortunate living does a lot to set things right after you suffer such tragic, unexplainable loss. There was more loss….Dia who died in her sleep on Easter morning, Danny so insanely ripped from us at the hands of a gun-toting friend, Alison who chose herself to no longer live in this world…but there was also beauty. Graduations. Weddings. Births. Life.

When I read Tuesday that our friend and online co-worker Anissa was lying in a hospital bed, fighting for her life, I suddenly was back in that kitchen. I wanted my mom to tell me this time that everything will be okay. She will wake up, speak, hold her kids again. She will go home to her husband and raise the children she fought so hard to have, so hard to keep.

But my world is upside down. I know what I have known since those cold days before my fourteenth birthday, that what is right does not always come to be. And so we pray. Please help me pray for Anissa.

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