My best friend lives in the sky. I know that is pretty far from Ohio, where I live, but we make it work. Ever since the day she moved to Heaven our friendship has only gotten stronger. Sure, things are different. But in a funny way, it is like nothing ever changed. When I laugh, I feel the warmth of her smile with me, when I cry, I feel her wipe away my tears. And on days when I lack the courage to go on, she reminds me just how brave I am.
You see, when people pas away, they do not die. They just move from their earthly home, to their home up in the sky.
When my best friend, Corynna, moved to Heaven, I got a tattoo in her memory. We always said "courage for Corynna." So when she went home to Heaven, I got the word courage permanently printed on the inside of my finger. I quickly realized that that small whisper of courage was no longer FOR Corynna, but instead, it was FROM Corynna.
It still makes me laugh. I was seventeen when my best friend had to go, and I remember making the executive decision that I was going to get a tattoo. It was not so much the thought of my mom's baby girl having a tattoo that freaked her out, but the fact that I wanted it on my left ring finger.
"But what about when you get married someday?" My mom expressed with concern.
I smiled, "This way she will be in my wedding."
I could go on and on about the simple reminder to have courage from my best friend and how it has gotten me through so many obstacles, but I think it is best if I instead tell you our story. Because it is a beautiful one. One that I have been saving for the perfect moment to share.
Like I said, our friendship has only gotten stronger. Sometimes communication gets tricky, but I always find a way to hear what she is telling me, and I know she always hears me. All week I have been asking my earthly friends "What should I write about this week?" As many great suggestions as I have gotten, nothing felt quite right. And then it hit me; her name, Corynna, stuck in my head and heavy on my heart. Not that I do not think about her often as it is, it is just sometimes I get so caught up in the busyness of life that I forget to sit and spend time with her. Sometimes my priorities become skewed and I forget what is most important in life. But just like always, she has a way of bringing me back down to reality and grounding me. She reminds me what I am passionate about and why I am here. And she, she is a BIG reason as to why I am still here, still breathing, and able to write this beautiful article.
DUH. Silly me. Of course I know what to write about. It is time. It is finally time. I know because she told me.
It is time to share, the story of us.
Freshman year. I was fifteen. I had been struggling with a viscous addiction of self harm. Everyday at school I would go into the bathroom and cut myself, as well as every day when I got home from school. My self hatred was bursting at the seams and I had never felt so alone. I thought either no one noticed my scars and my pain, or people noticed but just truly did not care.
But I was wrong, oh so very wrong.
One day as I was packing up my things after second period science class, I noticed two notes laying in my assignment book. One read "If those cuts are not really from a cat, call me." A number was attached. The second one simply stated "You're beautiful."
Dumbfounded I was to say the least. Someone had noticed. And even more, someone actually cared.
After school that day I immediately called the number. I got a voicemail, "Corynna."
What? I could not believe it. This sweet girl that I was only acquaintances with at the time noticed and truly cared. Not even a single one of my friends or teachers had noticed, but a sweet girl- almost a stranger to me- reached out and wanted to help.
You see, the most shocking part of it all was that Corynna had plenty of things to worry about in her own life, but she was so selfless that she still reached out to help me with my own struggles. Corynna was sick. She had a disease called mitochondrial disease. A terminal illness, and she was just a freshman in high school. And yet here she was, extending a helping hand to me, because that is just the type of person she was. The type that is rare in this world. The type that makes a difference. The type of person who graciously accepted her situation, and yet still set out to spend her term on earth helping others.
Almost instantly after Corynna and I began talking we became the best of friends. She understood me in a way that no one else could. Along with the self harm, I was also battling anorexia, a disease that is so isolating. A disease that left me with no friends, and no hope, that is... until I met my best friend.
We were both sick. So maybe it was in different ways, but we understood each other on a level that no one else could. We had a bond that I can not even find words to describe. We just got each other. She was, she still is, my "person." When you are sick to such an overwhelming extent at a young age, people pull away. Not because they are bad people, but because when you are a high schooler and one of your friends is dying, it is something that is pretty hard to cope with. So people pulled away. It is not that they did not care, but they did not know how to remain in our lives. We both lost what seemed like everyone. And then we found each other. We found the person who we would never lose. She was my better half. We were best friends, and we understood each other on a level that not even our family could not understand.
We made promises to always be there for each other, and we always were. But there was one promise made, that is the reason I am still here today. The most powerful promise I have ever made. An unbreakable one. One that is the reason my heart is still beating.
The memory I am about to share has saved my life, it is scared to me. And it is something I have kept to myself for so long. But my best friend told me it was okay. She told me to share, because our story and her legacy, are meant to live on beyond the time we spend on the earth.
I had started going to therapy just two months prior to this memory. Want to guess who convinced me? Corynna. I had started my very new, messy journey to try to recover because of the persistent love of my best friend.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Laying in her bed with her, just talking. Her favorite song always comes to mind when I remember that moment as I lay in bed next to my very best friend. Chasing cars- she even had the lyrics above her bed. "If I lay here, If I just lay here, would you lie with me and just forget the world?"
And that, that is exactly what we did that day.
I paused for a moment, took a deep breath and then looked at her. We both knew the elephant in the room was there. We both knew this was the beginning of the end. Deep down, we knew this was our last time on earth together. Our last time for just her and I to just lay there and forget the world.
"Corynna, I want to promise you something. I am not just getting better while you are still here to see it. I'm going to keep getting better even after you are gone, for both of us."
"Really?" She replied with tears in her eyes.
"Yes, I promise."
We both broke down. Tears flowing from both of our eyes. We hugged for the very last time and she told me over and over that I was her best friend and I told her the same.
A peace came over me that day. And a determination flowed through my body.
I had been going through the motions at therapy prior to this promise. I was not dedicated, and I was not even trying to get better. I was doing it more or less to please my best friend and my family. But that day, that day I made a commitment to get better, and I meant every word of it.
She had an illness that was terminal, one that would take her life. I had an illness that could be terminal and take my life, but I also had the choice to fight it, to beat it, and to live. I decided I was going to beat this. I was going to live. I was going to beat it for the both of us. And I was going to live for both of us. In a way me, beating my disease was us beating both of ours. I told her I would overcome it for us. That I would get better, and it would be our victory to share.
And that simple promise, that changed everything.
Just two weeks later I got a text from Corynna's mom saying this was it. That it was time for Corynna to go home. That I needed to be there. I had a basketball game I was supposed to cheer at, but in a heartbeat I skipped it and got to Corynna's house as fast as possible. When I arrived she was heavily sedated. This was to keep her from being in so much pain. When she was asleep she could be at peace.
It was a surreal feeling. Sitting in her dark room with only her family, her hospice nurse, and myself. We were all very quiet, not knowing when it would happen or what life without our sweet girl would be like. The TV was on. It was playing Corynna's favorite show, "Say yes to the dress." We sat and talked about Corynna, her spirit, her courage, her passion for life. We remembered all of the good times in our last few moments with her peacefully sleeping next to us.
I will never forget, how hard it was to leave that night. I had driven to her house but I did not even feel capable of driving myself home. My brother came and got me. When he arrived, I knew it was time to finally say "see you later" to my sweet best friend. I tucked the pillow pet I had given her a few weeks back up by her, I squeezed her tight, kissed her forehead, and walked away from her beating heart for the last time.
I woke up the next morning to the most heart wrenching news. My best friend, had went home to heaven. But she had not lost her battle, she won. It may have taken her earthly life, but her legacy and her spirit lives on, now and forever.
Like I said, her and I still hangout all the time. Things are just different, but I still have my best friend. It is just now, now I have her with me all the time, and we never have to be apart.
Four months passed, with Corynna and I's promise still heavy on my heart. I was not getting better. I was spiraling downhill and out of control, fast. I had to keep the promise, I had to.
So just four months after Corynna went to heaven I found myself going into a residential treatment center to conquer my disease. I was terrified. I remember crying and crying the night before. But I refused to back out. I took deep breaths and kept moving forward. I had courage, and it was coming from someone above.
The day I was admitted into treatment I was sitting in the nurses station and had to get my blood drawn. It does not seem like a big deal, but I was absolutely petrified of needles at the time. I wanted to run out of the room. And then I looked down at my hands. I saw courage on my finger and immediately I knew I was going to be okay. I stared at the word everyday I was there, every single day, for six weeks. Every time I needed inspiration and a reminder to keep fighting, she was there. And every time I need it now, she is still here.
Since I made that promise I have been to five treatment centers. Sometimes we have to fight a battle more than once to win, and that is okay. But this is a fight I CAN and WILL win. Mark my words.
I am proud to say I am solidly in recovery today. I am at college, eating new foods, making friends, excelling in class, finding freedom and living with courage everyday. I am living again. And because I chose life, Corynna lives too. We fought this fight together. We struggled together. We overcame together. And because of that promise, WE LIVE.
I did not always believe in angels. I did not actually believe in much of anything, especially something as beautiful as an angel. But then I met a real live one. One who lived on earth, and now lives in heaven. One who lives by my side. One who fills me with courage each and every day.
How lucky am I to say that my best friend has a halo and wings, and lives way up in the sky?
So let me end you with this:
Do you believe in angels? Because I sure do.