Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In memory of Laura

Went to the doctor today and she told me she is proud of me for keeping my weight gain under control (I gained 2 more pounds putting me at a total of 14 lbs in 25 weeks).  Pat myself on the back!  Everything is going really well and she is very happy with how it all is going.  Once again, as soon as he heard/felt the heart monitor, the little nugget started kicking the machine.  He's a piece of work.

This past week, as I have been prepping the baby's room and planning to bring new life into the world, I have been experiencing the other side of the spectrum which is the loss of life.  All in one week, two of my friend's moms and a friend of mine from college have passed.  Not that any one loss is more significant than another, but with the natural order of things, you expect your parents to go before you; you do not expect to lose your child.

As a freshman at UF, I joined Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity, and Laura became one of my brothers.  A letter showed up in my dorm mailbox inviting me to come to an informative meeting about the fraternity and my first reaction was confusion; um...I'm a girl and frats are for boys.  I called my dad and asked if I had missed something and if UF did things a little different. He informed me that yes, UF does do it different...they do it better...and that some of the colleges within the university have co-ed fraternities.  I decided I would walk by the meeting to see if there were any girls present, and if there weren't, I would just keep walking. 

I walked to the auditorium in one of the science buildings and there were 4 girls standing at the doors handing out papers, relieved, I walked in and little did I know I was about to join an organization that would completely change my college career for the better as well as give me some of my closest life-long friends. 

My third year in the fraternity, a girl with curly hair, a bubbly personality, and one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen in my life showed up for rush.  Without hesitation, she was voted in and became a very important and impactful brother. 

This was the last time I saw Laura.  We randomly bumped into her outside of the
Landing at Florida/Georgia weekend.  Laura is in the white shirt.
I don't want to embellish our relationship or make it sound like we were best friends; we weren't.  I was 3 years older and as she was getting revved up in Phi Sig, I was getting closer to graduation and winding down.  Laura was the person though who could liven up any party, always made you laugh, and you wouldn't hesitate to do anything for; because she would be the first person to help you if you needed something. 

After graduation, we only kept in touch via Facebook (which is the extent of 60-70% of our friends lists....let's be honest) and about a year ago she started posting that she was not feeling well and the doctors weren't sure what it was.  She kept us posted as she went through a slew of tests and guesses as to what was wrong and then before long, traveled to the Mayo clinic in Jacksonville, FL.  The next thing I knew, she was going through chemo and announced that she was going to need a bone marrow transplant. 

Obviously, I am not including many details and would probably butcher the timeline if I tried, so if you would like to read more about her story, you can go here: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/lauragillette/journal

The thing about Laura is that through all of the confusion, poking, prodding, chemo, bad news, etc, she never lost her positive attitude, sense of humor, fighting spirit, and that famous smile.  She eventually found a match and went through the bone marrow transplant only for her body to begin fighting it.  She had blood and platelet transfusions at least weekly which was keeping her alive, along with a lot of meds, and was forced to stay at the Mayo clinic because she couldn't keep enough fluids in her. 

About 2 or 3 weeks ago, her parents posted in her Caring Bridge journal that she hadn't spoken in about 4 days and had been unconscious for most of it and so they were planning to place her in hospice care; which we all know means the end is near.  How is it that in a year this beautiful, vibrant, fun-loving girl could go from training for half marathons to hospice care? 

Her parents were told there was not a bed for her that day, then at 9:00pm a bed opened but they decided to wait until morning to move her.  Miraculously, she woke up the next morning and was talking to her parents, husband and brother.  No one wanted to get their hopes up too high, but where was this surge of energy coming from?

Within the next few days, her husband called her parents to come to Mayo because Laura wanted to share her wishes with her family.  She had decided it was time, in her words, for her to "peace out" and wanted to admit herself into hospice knowing that "being alive" and "living" are 2 different things.  Laura held on for about 1 more week which allowed her to spend lots of time with her family and even for her to entertain some friends who came in from out of town, what a blessing, and then passed away last Tuesday at 8:30am. 

I am not sure of much of anything in life, but what I am positive of is this: there is a God, He has a plan for us, and we have no idea what it is.  To lose someone after only 27 years on this planet seems senseless, unfair, and is a HUGE test of faith; but faith we must have.  Laura and I were certainly not close enough to ever discuss her faith or lack thereof, so as the end became inevitable, I began making the sales pitch of my life.  I told God Laura would, if nothing else, make heaven a lot more fun and brighten up the place with her smile.  :)

So, as we all do after someone dies, I have been asking myself what I can do to honor Laura.  These are the things I have come up with:
1.  Be grateful for every day I have.
2.  Never take tomorrow for granted.
3.  Smile.  A lot!
4.  Donate blood on a regular basis (that is what kept her alive after all).
5.  Sign up to be a bone marrow donor. 
6.  Make more of an effort to stay in touch with people.

I am a work in progress and strive to do better with each of these everyday.  I don't think I can give blood while pregnant, so that will have to wait, but I have already requested a kit to be sent to my house to submit my DNA for the bone marrow donor list. 

Friends, if you would do me a favor and help me honor Laura by doing at least one of the things on my list, I will love you forever.  Go to bethematch.com and sign up to be a bone marrow donor.  It is free (although they will accept your money if you want to donate) and painless to get on the list.  It is painful to donate if you are matched with someone, but I think it is well worth the pain to potentially save a life. 

I wish peace, comfort, and eventual understanding to the families and friends of the 3 lovely women who left us last week, and am ready to start celebrating new life as about 5 of my friends are due in the next few months.

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