Andrea was called to her eternal home on Mother's Day, May 10 2009, after a six year battle with breast cancer. She was a loving daughter, sister, wife, mother to three beautiful girls, the favorite teacher of most of her 7th grade English students, and friend to so many. She was such a powerful presence that her absence will leave a void in the lives of those who know and love her.
I've known Andrea since third grade, and we became good friends in 9th grade. Through the years, she's been a huge part of my life. She was a bridesmaid in mine and Bobby's wedding, and the three of us rented a house together for awhile. She insisted that I take a pregnancy test and held my hand while I waited for the result when I found out I was pregnant with Sunshine. I was a bridesmaid in hers and Laith's wedding. She read the scriptures in mine and Bear's wedding, and she made our wedding cake. She's hosted baby showers for me, been at the hospital when some of my children were born, been at our baptisms and First Communions, birthdays, and other special events. Our children have grown big together.
Although she had undergone several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, a lot of us were convinced that she was invincible. She never let it slow her down. She still was teaching class and visiting with friends a couple weeks ago. It was a little over a week ago that we discovered that it was time to say our goodbyes.
This past Wednesday night, she had a bad night and was in a lot of pain. The hospice nurse had said that if she continued to decline as rapidly as she had so far, then she would have about 2-3 days left. I was distressed, unable to sleep, and I wound up driving to a nearby Perpetual Adoration chapel in the middle of the night. I prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament--Mother Teresa's emergency novena and all 20 decades of the rosary.
While I was there praying and crying out to God for a miracle, a question came to me. What if Andrea had just won a trip to some beautiful, exotic location, free from all care? Would I be so distressed, begging for her to stay HERE? No, I would send her off with great joy, excited for the opportunity that she's been given, maybe even a little envious of her good fortune. I realized that the journey she was about to embark upon is greater than anything earth could offer her. I would have been happy to see God work a miracle for the sake of her young daughters, or in the hope that some of her unbelieving loved ones would be converted. But at that time, I came to be at peace with sending her off on her journey.
Siobhan, Donnita, Sandy, and I visited her on Thursday. She had always said that she wished she could get Sandy, Siobhan, and me all together at the same time, but it never had worked out. I was afraid that after the night she had, it was going to be too late for her to enjoy all of us being there together. But I was wrong! She wanted to put on the new pajamas that her grandma brought her, get in the wheelchair, and sit at the table with us. She was able to eat a couple bites, drink a little, and take her medicines. Although she seemed confused at times, she knew who we all were, and she seemed very happy to see us. She would turn and look at each of us at different times, smile her beautiful smile, and reach out to hold a hand or give a hug. Once she went back to bed, she slept very deeply for the rest of the afternoon. She actually seemed more happy and at peace than I've seen her in a long time.
There are times when I don't think we've had enough time to adjust to the fact that she really is leaving us, but at the same time, I'm glad she didn't have a long, drawn-out period of suffering. And I'm thankful for the time we had with her. I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to pray a rosary with her during her last week here. I thought she was asleep when I sat down beside her to whisper the prayers, but then she reached to hold my hand. I could see her lips moving in prayer along with me at times, see her trying to keep track of the prayers on her fingers at times, and occasionally she would open her eyes and smile at me. What a blessing that memory is to me! (If you are wondering...no, she wasn't Catholic, but she loved the rosary just the same.) I'm thankful that her friends were able to give her a good send-off and let her know how much she was loved. I'm thankful that her last moments were surrounded by loving family. I'm thankful that her family had time to prepare for her leaving. I'm thankful that she is reunited with her youngest sister, whom she missed so much. I'm even a little envious that she actually got to see our Blessed Mother on Mother's Day.
I will miss visiting with her at the girls' ballgames, spending lazy afternoons at the pool, those increasingly rare occasions when I could catch her on the phone to chat. I will cherish all the wonderful memories I have of her. The night we went running barefoot through a freshly plowed field enjoying the feel of the dirt on our feet. The time we both drove 30 miles in the middle of the night to meet each other halfway at a gas station so we could visit in person. Sitting on the front porch swing sharing a bottle of White Zinfandel at 3:00pm (the whole bottle!), listening to the Doors, waving at the passing cars. Floating lazily in the lake, singing terribly. Long phone conversations about motherhood, God's grace in our lives, lessons we'd learned.
I will always love Andrea and miss her while I am here on earth, but I am so thankful for the hope of being reunited with her someday.