From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

A Forever Friend

Friends may move away —so far that you may never meet again. And yet they are a part of you forever.

Pam Brown

I ended up sitting next to Julie by chance at a motivational seminar. We had ample opportunity to tell stories about ourselves and found that we shared a common interest: passion for the spiritual and “unseen” parts of life. I told her I was studying dreamwork. This interest was to become the glue that bound our lives together. At the end of the day, we exchanged business cards and promised to meet again soon.

When we got together for lunch, Julie casually mentioned that she’d been having random and disturbing pains in her lower legs. The next few months proved to be an emotional and pivotal time in Julie’s life. She was becoming increasingly immobilized from the pain and from muscle spasms. Numerous physicians, including neurologists, attempted to diagnose the growing lack of control of her extremities. After endless agonizing tests, Julie had no conclusive answers. She began doing research of her own.

I had never really understood what Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS) was until Julie’s research pointed to it as the insidious illness causing her affliction. She educated me about the symptoms, treatments, side effects and, worst of all, prognosis. Unfortunately, the suspicions of her research were confirmed.

Five years after I met Julie, she knew her time was short. We had many conversations concerning her beliefs about death and dying, how she did not want to be a burden and wanted to pass from this existence with dignity. Julie’s conversations with God increased in frequency. Near the end, she heard a voice tell her it was time for her to move from her home into a hospice care facility.

By that time, Julie talked often about wanting to leave this Earth, saying that she was ready to go. This was a difficult yet special time for me, as I learned to honor the present moment when visiting her. Time was running out for us. My dear friend was in the active stages of dying. During our last visit together, we made a pact. She said she would contact me, if at all possible, after her death. Due to an out of-town commitment that could not be postponed, I was not present at Julie’s memorial service. A month later, my husband and I went to our beach cabin for the weekend. There, I was able to heal and reflect on this amazingly strong and courageous woman who had taught me so much about the miracle of the human spirit.

On our second night there, I had a very real and intense dream of Julie actually standing in our bedroom. She was radiant, vibrant and smiling just as she had been when I first met her. She opened her arms to me and hugged me hard, then held me at arm’s length so that I could see her eyes and her joy. Julie said clearly, “We do not die!” This was more than a dream—I knew I had experienced something very real. It made sense for Julie to contact me this way. She knew my life’s work was based on art and dreams. I shook my husband awake and told him that Julie had visited me, what she said and how wonderful she looked.

On the way home, I could not stop thinking about the feeling and image of Julie. I began to cry and thought to myself: Julie, your strength and spirit and amazing courage touched many lives and hearts. I, for one, will never be the same for having known you.

Before reaching home, we stopped by our offices to pick up the weekend mail. I found that I had been sent a program from Julie’s memorial service. When I opened the envelope, there was Julie’s radiant, smiling face on the cover of the leaflet. It was the exact image of her I had seen in my dream! A Native American poem that Julie had selected before her death was printed on the inside page. It began with the words: “Do not sit at my grave and weep, for I am not there. The last line read: “Do not stand at my grave and cry, for we do not die.”

Marlene King

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