Hope and grief are two kinds of friends.
Hope is the kind of friend that gives you a reason to wake up.
And grief is the kind of friend that pulls up the shade in your when all you want to do is hide.
I met Jel in the first week of February. Through her younger sister, Jess, I heard about her story on how she woke up from a coma last December after three years of living life with cancer. If that wasn’t enough physical pain, she also went through a breakup in the new year. Despite all these obstacles, she was still candid, cheerful, and comfortable in her skin.
Her presence just echoed through the zoom room in our first meeting. I almost forgot we were chatting virtually. I felt like we were just two girls having coffee for the first time.
We talked about how maturity came with her experiences, the love she received from her family and friends, her past relationship, and of course, her hope in starting fresh.
Jel mentioned that she wanted to start a podcast that focused on her classmates from school and the hospital about their deepest fears. She must’ve noticed me confused as she joked, “I call my friends in the hospital— classmates.” To Jel, the last three years in and out of the hospital was like being in the school of life. When I think about the two weeks I got to know her, she would’ve been a fantastic podcaster.
Perspective is everything in podcasting. And Jel’s was vulnerable, mature, candid, and hopeful. Her spirit reminded me of this line written by Edith Eger, a psychologist & Holocaust survivor:
“Hope is the boldest act of imagination I know.”
I’m grateful that she had a chance to share her story with us. The words of a person are the most graceful memories that one can leave us. And when I look back at our episode, these are our favorite quotes that I hope we would all remember in thinking of her bold spirit:
- My rule to myself is always to leave some self-love. Give your love 90% and then 10% for yourself.
So many of us give too much. We allow people to step all over us, demand of us, and breakdown our boundaries. And when we are left behind, we feel empty. We should always leave love for ourselves.
- I have to validate my sadness.
Pretending to be okay all the time does not make us human. We need to remember that pain is temporary. And no matter how much pain it is, the feeling will pass.
- Tomorrow will be a better day.
It’s not enough to say tomorrow is another day. We have to choose the word ‘better.’ That’s a promise to progress.
- I cry. I accept my weaknesses. But I flaunt my strengths.
Freedom lies in accepting our imperfect selves and giving up the pursuit for perfection. We are, at times, very critical of ourselves. Instead, we can shake off the worries and remind ourselves that our weaknesses and strengths are what make us.
- No room for no hope.
Hope is a beautiful word! One that gives us a reason to keep going no matter how bad the situation gets. Make space for hope, but don’t give it a hard deadline.
- I read somewhere: do wounds really heal?…No, it’s just that you found the strength and the courage to face those wounds. That’s why you don’t feel pain. It’s not as painful as before.
Falling off a bike can happen more than once. The first time is a shock. The second and third, we know what to expect. Our wounds build our resilience.
- Tell us that you love us. Tell us that you’re there.
Love is time. Love is showing up for those that need us, even if they don’t tell us.
- Maturity comes from experience.
During this pandemic, we have a common worry— that time is flying too fast. We celebrate birthdays at home and wonder when life will begin again. Well, guess what, life is not on hold. You can choose life still. And you can choose your response to it everyday. That’s what allows us to grow in emotional maturity. And our maturity is worth celebrating, not the number of candles we have on a cake.
Jel’s birthday was March 15. She passed away only a few days beforehand. A message from her:
“For my birthday this year, I’m asking for donations to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I’ve chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you’ll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me. Every little bit will help me reach my goal. I’ve included information about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society below.
The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.”