One year ago today, I lost a huge piece of my heart. My friend, Jennifer Clouse, went to be with our Lord and Savior after a long battle with breast cancer on the morning of August 9, 2016.
I met Jennifer in the 6th grade at First Baptist Academy and we remained thick as thieves for 33 years. Even as I write that, I feel like it was more like 80 years. The depth of our friendship truly encompassed real, raw, unedited versions of our selves. She knew everything about me, and I knew everything about her. Jen was loud and boisterous and a BLAST to be around. There was never a dull moment in her presence. She could make me laugh so hard that it would take me hours to recover. And even up until her final days, she could shock me with her unfiltered commentary. Jen and I had the type of friendship that resembled sisters, in that we didn’t have to pretend to be nice when we didn’t feel like it. We were completely comfortable sharing our opinions with one another even if they were at odds. The beautiful thing about that, however, was that we ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, knew that our love for each other was unconditional. We were tender with one another’s emotions and fiercely protected each other when hurt came our way. We laughed and cried so much together on our journey that I think those emotions eventually melded into one. Last July (18th to be exact), my friends Amy, Angela and I celebrated Amy’s birthday with Jen in the hospital. (We have all been friends since junior high.) It was one of the last times that Jen was really Jen. We visited for 2 hours and had the best time, which was not unusual for us.
Shortly after this, Jen slowed down quite a bit and became very lethargic. I had one or two more good conversations with her after this day, but this one is the one that is permanently imprinted on my heart.
It seemed only fitting that one of her last best days was spent surrounded by the peeps that had been there since the days of overindulgent hair spray and hideously bad bangs.
I’m so thankful for the memories we made along the way, and cherish every single one.
Because of Jen’s journey, lives are being changed. Not only spiritually (that’s another post for another time), but also physically. After Jen died, I became extremely diligent about self breast exams. Something I had never done in the past. And when I found a lump in April 2017, I didn’t sit around wondering if I should or shouldn’t go see a doctor. I went immediately, knowing what a cruel and unpredictable enemy we might be dealing with. Sure enough, I was diagnosed shortly afterwards with breast cancer. And since my diagnosis, at least two other women I know were prompted to have mammograms and have since been diagnosed. I feel that because of Jennifer and her story, my cancer was found early and I will most likely live a long and normal life. As will these other brave women. It may be a leap to you, but I know that the dynamic and enthusiastic girl I met when I was just eleven years old not only saved my life, but the lives of so many others as well.
So many of you have been tenderhearted enough to grasp the surreal nature of this experience, and you ask how I am doing. Honestly, I can’t help but question what the Lord’s plan is for all of this. I can’t wrap my brain around it. Since February 2012 when Jen was originally diagnosed, I have walked this cancer journey with her. That’s five long years for those of you who are not good at math. I’m tired of doctor’s visits. I’m really not equipped to endure these awful side effects of chemo. And I don’t understand why, so soon on the heels of Jennifer’s death, I still have a daily reminder of how vicious cancer can be.
Thankfully, however, I know the Lord. And while I may be baffled by my own life’s circumstances, I do rest in the fact that He is faithful (2 Thessalonians 3:3). He sees infinitely more than I could ever see (Isaiah 55:8). He calls me to trust in Him and not in my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). He already knows how this story will bring HIM glory (I Corinthians 10:31), and I’m confident in His ways despite my endless confusion.
My friend, Catherine, sent me this verse the other day and I felt like it conveyed all that I am feeling.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but NOT CRUSHED; perplexed, but NOT IN DESPAIR; persecuted, but NOT ABANDONED; struck down, but NOT DESTROYED. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the LIFE of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
NOT CRUSHED, NOT IN DESPAIR, NOT ABANDONED, and NOT DESTROYED.
These are not only powerful words, but they are the TRUTH. Jennifer knew it and preached it all the time. And now it is my turn to rely on that truth amidst these crazy circumstances.
I miss my friend every single day. I’m sad that she’s not here to cheer me on and lift me up with her bald bitmoji she would so frequently text.
I wish so badly I could let her know that now I ‘get’ so many of the things she said and did over the last few years. I have such a newfound respect for everything she endured now that I’m the one sitting in the chemo chair. In short, my cancer journey has only made me appreciate even more what I believed to be true about Jen – she was a strong, vibrant, tough, sensitive, passionate soul. And I’m thankful for the promise that I will get to see her in heaven again one day. What a glorious reunion that will be.
So TODAY I celebrate the life of a girl well lived. A life punctuated by all things Jesus. And a life that saved mine.
Until next time…much love to you all & make every single day count,
Jamie (aka B)
“We grieve, but not in the same way as those who have no hope…” I Thessalonians 4:13