Her eyes sparkled like stars in the sky, her smile lit up a room like the sun, her heart was open, and her love unconditional. My friend, Gigi. She was the kind of friend who supported and encouraged you when she was the one in need. Gigi battled cancer throughout most of our friendship. And battle she did. She battled it with faith in God and joy. It was difficult to believe Gigi was sick because she didn't look sick and spent as much time as possible loving, giving, laughing, and dancing. She never hesitated to thank God for the many blessings in her life, and always counseled me to have faith--that "doubt is the thief of God's blessings." I remember when Gigi called to tell me she had breast cancer. And I remember years later when she called to tell me that her breast cancer metastasized to her bones. Throughout this time we would attend church together and I would watch in amazement as she praised God. I had no understanding. Although I was a Christian at the time, my faith was weak and I was a "woe is me" disciple, so I did not recognize or understand Gigi's joy. I found her circumstances depressing and could not figure out why she wasn't in bed cradled in a fetal position. But Gigi had that fire on the inside. She knew something I didn't--that you may not be able to choose whether illness befalls you, but you can often choose whether you suffer or live joyfully. Gigi chose to live joyfully. I had the pleasure of seeing her raise her children, find love and get married during her battle with cancer. By no means was her journey easy, but she lived her life with a fierce determination to make it as rich and meaningful as possible.
I have learned that life's lessons are sometimes presented before we need them. Rarely does a week go by when I don't think of Gigi and all she taught me about living joyfully in the midst of illness. It has been seventeen years since Gigi died a physical death, but her legacy of joy lives on. What a gift!