“Some day I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.”
“If I die young, bury me in satin. Lay me down on a bed of roses…
send me away with the words of a love song.”
The Band Perry
The song Live Like You Were Dying, sung by Tim McGraw (yes, I do enjoy some country music), was widely popular the year my life changed forever. I remember listening to it the summer before I went off to college, thinking it was a “good” song but never really thinking much about its lyrics. I mean, I liked the song, but it didn’t really move me – that is until a few months later.
Fast-forward a few months. I’m told to leave the college I love (Cedarville University) and prepare for a double lung transplant, which could or couldn’t come in time; there weren’t any guarantees. Without the transplant, I had around 6-12 months to live. I would be bed-ridden most of the time while I waited for the transplant, and it would take a few months to even get listed, let alone to actually find a donor. During the whole time this was going on, the only “word” I could get from the Lord was “Trust Me“.
I chose to listen.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I left college, spent 3 weeks in the hospital (including Christmas, New Year’s Eve and my birthday) in the hospital for stabilization purposes, and then came home to a freshly-painted room, new computer and plenty of time on my hands. My grandiose plans of continuing my college education via Moody Online lasted, oh, around 3 weeks, when due to my extreme fatigue and mental cloudiness, I emailed my school to tell them I’d be dropping out, but not forever.
It’s funny the thoughts that go through your head when you’re dying. They can be confusing. They can be uplifting. They can be terrifying. They can be simple. They can be complex. Let’s just say, you think – a lot. There’s not much else to do.
What do you do with all those thoughts? Well, that depends. Some bury them all up inside, in fear of what will happen if they really let themselves feel. Some, like me, choose instead to share them through the world. No, I didn’t set-out to write a book; that really was never my intent. I just started writing. I felt called to write, honestly. I didn’t really understand why but do now. As the old hymn says, “we’ll understand better by and by”.
Some days, I slept for 20 hours and wrote my e-mails at 3:00am. Some days, I couldn’t get out of bed to write them and would feel guilty. Through my weakness, though, He showed Himself strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Those days I didn’t want to write, He gave me the strength. It was therapuetic for me, especially when talking on the phone started taking too much energy. I wrote to breathe. I wrote to feel closer to Home, where I truly wanted to be.
I not only wanted to go Home, I prepared for it it would happen. Yes, that’s right. I, along with my close friends, actually planned my funeral. Looking back, it was a rather strange experience, but I have never felt more at peace in an awkward situation in my life.
Fast-forward 5 years: I didn’t go Home, as you all know. I’m still here. I’ve had a fuller 5 years than I could have ever imagined. I have not only written a book, but traveled the country proclaiming His sovereignty and goodness, graduated with highest honors from college (the same one I had e-mailed to say I’d be back), started my career, and married my best friend. The latter is my most important earthly accomplishment, if you ask me. I adore my life., especially now that I get to share it with my wonderful husband. I could never ask for more.
After all, I went from this:
Yes, I, along with 50% of other double lung transplant recipients 5 years out, am still here. and doing rather well, to the glory of God. I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon, but then again, no one does. All of our lives are fragile, as James says.
Many have asked me what I’ve learned through my journey.
Some things that come to mind:
- Give your heart to Jesus. Make Him Lord and bask in the peace that comes from knowing Him.
- Pray and then pray some more.
- Cherish every moment; drink in deeply the beauty of life.
- Give much more than you take. Be a servant.
- Smile. 🙂
- Respect the wisdom that comes with age. Be teachable.
- Don’t toil in worry. Tomorrow is not promised.
- Live simply; you aren’t taking any of it with you.
- Tell those you love how much you love them; today may be your last chance.
- Take time to laugh, especially at yourself.
- Stand for your convictions, no matter who opposes.
- Allow yourself to dream bigger dreams than you’re capable of achieving on your own.
- Look at each day as a blessing, not a birthright.
- Be fiercely loyal, especially to your spouse.
- Allow yourself to cry, to feel, to be healed in Jesus’ name.
I don’t know what’s next for me, but I know He does, and that’s all that matters. I could still be around 20 years from now. I could be dead tomorrow. For now, though, I’m going to live and celebrate 5 years well spent.