Saturday, September 13, 2014

Just Because

This past week we traveled back to Fairhope to attend the funeral of our friend who finished her battle with ovarian cancer.  At 36-years-old.  With two little girls and a husband who adored her. And a church and entire community who feel deeply the loss of this sweet, wonderful soul.

I was talking to a friend last night who didn't know her and as I described Nicole and talked about her, I told him how she just loved with her whole heart....everything and everyone.  She loved with abandon.  Whether you were a new friend, an old friend, or just a friend of hers on Facebook, she made you feel welcome, loved, and accepted for who you are.  You didn't have to be anything special for her.  You only had to be who you are.  And as I've thought about all the things that made her so wonderful and endeared her to so many people, I've realized that in her short life she accomplished what many people work a much longer lifetime to achieve.  And most never do.  

Nicole was 34 when she was diagnosed with a devastating disease with an even more devastating prognosis.    For two years she lived with the knowledge that barring a miracle she wouldn't see her girls grow up.  For two years she fought this horrible monster that left her unable to care for her family, something that before cancer she did so lovingly and so well.  I've thought a lot about this over the past couple of years, but probably not as much as I should have.  I've thought about it when I felt like I was trudging through the ordinary, mundane tediousness of everyday life in a family with small children....loads of never ending laundry, dog hair in the corner of every room, scattered clutter throughout the house, contant meal preparation.  The "yuck" of every day that just seems to go on and on with no end in sight and no hope of completion.  Ever.  And sometimes I would stop to think about Nicole and was hit with the guilt of realization that Nicole would love to have my dirty clothes, dog hair, and what-to-fix-for-dinner-again dilemmas as her "yuck".  And at those times I thanked God for the yuck.  

But the amazing thing about Nicole was that she thanked God for her yuck too.  She managed to see a blessing in it when most people would only see the burden.  That was just the way she was.  Cancer didn't bring that out in her.  It was already there.   As a friend of ours says, when you're squeezed what is going to come out?  For Nicole it was God, gratitude, and grace.  

We moved away from Fairhope four years ago and in the past four years I've only seen Nicole a handful of times.  The last time I saw her was in June after she was already on hospice.  I sent her a message after I left and told her that there was so much more I wanted to say to her and the thing I didn't want to say was goodbye.  I told her that what I wanted to say was that I remember all the times she invited us over for dinner just because....and how I remember that her home was always open. Her door was literally always unlocked and because they lived right next to the little park where I always took my babies, she would remind me often that if we needed a bathroom, or water, or a popsicle, to just come on in...even if she wasn't there.   I told her that I remember the time she called to say she had made a huge pot of chicken soup and she was bringing some over to us just because she thought we might enjoy it.  There was no reason of the kind that I usually only take meals to one was sick, no new baby, no real reason.  It was just because.  I remember the times she would tell me to bring my babies over to her house to play and leave them there if I might have some errands to run alone.  That's like winning the lottery for a tired Mama of littles!  There was no real reason for me to have to do was just a treat.  Just because.  I told her I remember the day before my oldest started kindergarten when she came by to bring me a copy of The Kissing Hand because she thought I might not have one and I just had to read it to him that night.  She guessed correctly and I read that book with him every night for the next two weeks....then read it again with my second...and then my last baby.   

There were so many things Nicole did "just because".  I want to love with that same abandon that she had.   I want to see the good in people and love them for what they are and not expect them to be anything else.  I want to look for ways to show love and grace and compassion and kindness with a smile to the people around me, not because it's expected or because I feel obligated....but just because.

It's the "just because" that really shows love.  In our last written message to each other, Nicole told me that the one thing cancer had taught her was to say exactly how she felt....and she told me she loved me. Funny thing is, she never had to say that.  It's something I always knew.

The other morning after weeping on and off for a couple of days I turned on the radio and realized it was the just the kind of song that Nicole would have turned up full blast, and she would have sung at the top of her lungs, and she would have danced not caring what anyone thought.  And even though we were still in our pj's, and even though our waffles were burning in the toaster, I grabbed my kids' hands and we laughed and sang and danced around the kitchen.  Just because.

Nicole Teague
June 26, 1978 - September 9, 2014


christy flowers said...

As my wife and I walked out of the church from Nicole's funeral, she said, "I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing." Puzzled, I said, "What are you talking about?" And after wiping a tear away, she confessed, "Nicole just reminded me that I am not living with passion..."
Your post captures the essence of who Nicole was, but better yet, how her spirit can live on within us--

Cindy said...

Julie - Beautiful, just like Nicole. I didn't know Nicole well. I met her once at the park with you, and saw her plenty in passing. But just in very casual contact, I could tell all of those things you said about her were absolutely true. She was really beautiful inside and out. My heart breaks for her girls and for Matt, but if she can't be with them, then I'm sure she's exactly where she would want to be...with our Savior. Indeed, she lived with purpose and intent, and has been a great reminder we should all do the same. I'm so sorry for your loss.