When the fight ends

After a 22-year battle with cystic fibrosis, my friend Darcey passed away on Wednesday, August 3. I first met her when I was an intern at the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2006. I was preparing some wish stories to use in marketing pieces, and I came across a girl with cystic fibrosis who had recently been granted a wish. In the coming weeks, she attended a Make-A-Wish event, and I had the pleasure of meeting her face-to-face. Darcey was 13 years old when we met, which tends to be a particularly rebellious time.

After we met, I tried to take her under my wing, checking in on her and even bringing her surprises in the hospital. Attending CF camp as a child, I had the luxury of meeting other CFers that were my age, but I hadn't gotten many opportunities to meet people in different age groups.  As an adolescent, having CF can be especially isolating, so I wanted to be a friend -- and even a role model -- to Darcey. CF or no CF, 13 isn't an easy age. 

I remember I had a necklace that she liked, so I tried to find her something similar. When I gave it to her in the hospital, I told her -- in front of her mom -- that she was only allowed to wear it on days that she'd done her treatments. I wanted to motivate her while showing her that I cared. Darcey was always in and out of the hospital, and I know how frustrating that must have been for her. We've all had moments when it feels like our best isn't good enough, yet imagine being in a cycle that tells you over and over that your best just isn't good enough.

When I have lost friends that were in my peer group, I was heartbroken. It is always a mix of sadness, a reality check, and even discouraging yet motivating at the same time. However, losing someone almost 10 years my junior really amplifies it all. It feels especially unfair. Many of my camp friends died in their early 20s, too, but this especially doesn't seem right. In some ways, Darcey's life was very short. When you look at how much she endured, though, she lived a very long life. 

My heart is somewhat heavy, but the heaviness always brings with it a certain weightlessness that is hard to explain. Knowing that Darcey was struggling so much, a part of me feels relieved that her fight is over. She fought and fought and fought and fought, yet finally the struggle has ended.

Above all, it's a good reminder to be grateful for each day. We all have the power to make someone smile, to show others we care, to leave things better than we found them. So let's do it for the people who can't.   

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