I have written this post for my friend Natalie. Before she knew she was dying she agreed to share her story on my blog. She was the most active supporter of my blog (and I think even my first facebook fan) . This is a difficult post to write, but I wanted to share this with you as it is both a sad, and amazingly wonderful story.
Last week, I went to the funeral of my friend, Natalie. I met Natalie about six years ago, when I started working for CRS Australia as a Rehabilitation Consultant. We were never "best friends" but we got along really well at work and had managed to maintain a friendship through facebook and very rare catch ups when I was in Sydney.
Natalie who was only 31, was the most amazing mother. Long before she was pregnant with her first child she told us she had a drawer full of baby clothes. She couldn't wait to be a mum. As her boys grew up she made life so much fun, and would regularly be posting on facebook all the baking, gardening or other adventurous things they would be doing throughout their week (on top of her working part time). I would often wonder how she could fit all these things into her week but she did it because she loved her boys and her husband.
Late last year I was surprised to get a facebook chat message from Natalie wanting to ask me a few questions about what I believed. I knew she had been going to church but had not really talked to her about it. She knew I was a Christian from when we worked together, as I often talked about what I believed when people asked. However, she never engaged in these chats as she later told me she thought Jesus was just an imaginary friend for grown ups. She was one of the last people who I ever thought would want to talk about Jesus, but here she was wanting to know my thoughts on God, and suffering in the world. I gave her the best answers I could, but she said she was finding it difficult to trust in God when she didn't understand it all.
Not long after these chats, Natalie visited the doctor about a persistent cough, and following a number of tests she was diagnosed with Lung Cancer (not related to smoking). I remember it was a few days after I had given birth to Alicia when her name popped up on facebook chat. She gave me the news that she had been diagnosed with cancer. She was pretty scared but remained positive that things would be ok.
Very soon after this terrible news, she popped up on facebook to tell me some wonderful news. She told me that with the help of some great friends and a great minister he was able to come to a point where she could say that she did want to have a relationship with Jesus (even if she didn't understand it all). She had been surrounded by so many Christian people and there was "God stuff" (her words) everywhere. She was unable to ignore it and came to truly believe God was real and He wanted to have a relationship with her. But one thing she wanted everyone to know what that she had come to this decision before she was diagnosed.
One of my favourite messages I got from her at the time was:
So I can say I'm a Christian & can honestly say it wasn't just cause I was in hospital & scared just 'my' timeframes were a little different!!! Thanks for all your encouragement & chats along the way & I'll prob still continue to do this
After all this, we had decided to catch up while I was in Sydney in May. She was having a couple of tests at the hospital in the morning and then I was to go and visit her. Sadly, she cancelled our catch up as she had to have more tests that day. I think that was the day she found out that the cancer had spread. From then on I didn't hear much from her except for a couple of text messages.
I found out that she had lost her battle with cancer on facebook, which seems bad but it was the way we communicated. I don't think I realised she was so sick and was pretty shocked that she was gone. My heart broke for her husband and her two boys, but my heart rejoiced knowing that she was with the one who loved her more than anything. She was with Jesus.
I am thankful that I was able to have a tiny part in her journey towards faith in Jesus. She was one of the last people I would have expected would become a Christian when I first met her, but God had a plan for her and saved her before she became sick. I don't understand why she got cancer and was taken from this life, but I do know that she is now in a place where there is no more death, or mourning or crying or pain. I also know that I will see her again one day, in heaven.
So Goodbye Natalie...for now. I look forward to giving you a big hug when we meet again.