December 9, 2011

Good-bye, Judy

The world lost an incredible woman yesterday.  Judy lost her battle with inflammatory breast cancer.

When I met Judy four years ago she was at the start of her battle with this horrible, awful disease.  I went back to her posts from that time and find them to be so honest as to bring me to tears.  She was scared, for herself, her son and her husband, but also willing to look that fear straight in the eyes and challenge it.  She  came out of her diagnosis swinging, and never stopped, not for one second.

When I think of the people she has helped by writing about IBC and sharing her experience, I am awestruck.  Judy leaves an enormous legacy, one that has helped and will continue to help many facing the very same fight.  I've been reading the comments on her Facebook page and blog, and find no small number saying they're glad Judy is at peace now.  I agree, but with a caveat.

I'm not glad that Judy has to be at peace.  I'm angry that cancer claims so many lives, and that some cancers seem to elude our ability to find a cure.  I'm angry that a mother has had to leave a young boy behind. I'm angry that a couple who loved each other are now separated by death.

Judy, you deserved so many more years. You hoped for them, but always accepted God's will for you.  Honestly, I'd like to have a word with God right now, but I'm going to follow your wise and wonderful example and humbly accept His decision.

Even if I'm mad and sad as hell that you are gone.

I met Judy in a mall in northeast Ohio during the holidays in 2008. She delivered her devilish wit with sparkling eyes, a ready smile and an infectious laugh. We laughed a lot that day, in spite of the fact that Judy had just learned she was facing the battle of her life. It was just four years ago, and it breaks my heart to think at how fast those years have gone by and how hard they were on Judy.

Judy's writing on adoption is what first drew me to her. It taught me that it's possible to accept adoption's paradoxes, including the joy of family, without disrespecting the pain of those it has hurt. She loved her son fiercely, but never lost sight of his losses or those of his first family. Her heart embraced the entire adoption experience, and her kindness offered many a haven from the harshness the world dishes out to those who suffer from it. I encourage - no, I urge - those of you who didn't know Judy to visit Just Enjoy Him and read her adoption posts.

I understood, but missed Judy's adoption writing when she turned her attention to the more pressing matter of her health. That, however, led her to share her faith with us, and it was a marvelous thing indeed.  I admired her immensely for her ability to say out loud that she believed in God and trusted Him to do right by her.  Judy's faith gave her peace - you could see it. I know it will sustain those she leaves behind, especially EB and AMP, through the grief and sorrow ahead. I add my prayers to the ones Judy offered so frequently, and send my sympathy to everyone in Judy's family.

On her blog, Judy called herself a seeker, on a journey. She may not be journeying through our hard little world anymore, but there is no doubt in my mind that she journeys still.

Go in peace, Judy. Komapseumnida - thank you - for all you gave us here on earth. I know the God you love has welcomed you with open arms and is returning your generosity a thousand fold.

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More tributes to Judy - please let me know of others so I can add them to the list:

Marley's Judy Ohles Kooistra - RIP
Mothers with Cancer's Until we meet again
Get Out Gertrude's Goodbye Judy
Mary Beth's Another Good-bye