I met Val in May of 1997 and I knew we would be fast friends, not just because she was my future sister-in-law, but because her sharp whit and sarcastic humor was my love language. At first impression you might think that she was maybe stand-offish but really she was like a a Blow-Pop. A cherry flavored Blow-Pop. A tough exterior that was sweet but once you got deep down to the inside of her core she was soft and pliable and STRONG.
May 30, 1998 she came to our wedding looking fabulous and handling motherhood like a boss. Having just given birth weeks earlier to her second baby, she showed up EARLY to the church with both kiddos, dressed to the nines, her hair done, her makeup on, in heels. I was like “Wow. I hope that when I’m a mom I can show up like that.”
She continued to show up and amaze me every time I saw her or talked to her. We had this special bond that left things unspoken and yet understood. One glance or eye roll and we knew what the other was thinking about the situation we would be witnessing or the conversation we were ease dropping on.
When our oldest son was a year old she began to exhibit symptoms of MS. Eighteen years ago there was not much that was really known about the disease, but that didn’t stop her. She fought everyday to stand, to do her hair and her make up, to dress herself and to LIVE.
When things progressed she continue to fight to do things for herself and if she sensed one ounce of pity from anyone she would shut them down in a heartbeat.
MS is an odd disease, it’s autoimmune, so it will effect people differently in different ways, and hers seemed to be aggressive and move rapidly but that did not stop her from enjoying life or showing up.
Sitting here today, writing this I’m still in shock that she is gone. That today, Monday, the alert in my phone that says “Call Val”, will render the line silent. This was not how her story was to be told. It was supposed to be told by her with a different ending. But, we can not dictate how the river of life will ebb or flow and if there’s anything I know it is that we are not the author of our lives but merely the blank pages that are written upon by the loving hand of our Heavenly Father.
Here is what I believe is Val’s Stunningly Strong Story: Her purpose, her “why” was for others. And in my selfishness I claim that her “why” was for myself, my girls as well as her daughter and my other nieces so that we could have the truest example of the scripture “She is clothed in dignity and strength and she laughs at the days to come.” Lived right out in front of us.
She fought a good and brave fight. Her will to live was the strongest I have ever seen. Did she question her faith and ask why? Yes, she did, but that doesn’t diminish her strength in my eyes, instead it makes her one the strongest women I have ever known because she was transparent and vulnerable and open and honest about what she was feeling and experiencing and she didn’t shy away from that. In the midst of her battle I watched her ask the hard questions but never once did I see her waiver from the fact that she knew her God, was a good father who loved her and she loved Him back. I learned from her story that God can handle our questions, our anger and our fear. Her story showed me that even in the Why, He is still God and He is still good.
What is Val’s Stunningly Strong Story? It’s one of complete hope. Total healing. One of strength and dignity and legacy. It’s about still believing even in the hard times and still loving God and believing in Him even when things don’t happen the way, we on earth, want them to happen. That’s her story and it will be my greatest honor in life to tell it every chance I have.