A while back, I received a letter from a reader.
It was written by a young woman, only 27, who was recovering from a double lung transplant that came about as a result of a lifelong illness with cystic fibrosis. She described her gratefulness for the transplant and understood how it had saved her life but that it also gave rise to an endless stream of medical complications that kept her tied to the hospital and in chronic pain. Even the simplest tasks like doing a load of laundry or taking her dog to the park left her exhausted and defeated and filled with tears. She spoke honestly and clearly about what hurt and I imagined her young life and the incredible weight of the physical and emotional challenges she was carrying.
The second part of her letter was even more remarkable. She explained that she didn’t want to spend the rest of her days feeling stuck and depressed and described how she was giving herself a much needed kick in the pants to get going, stop feeling sorry for herself (her words) and start making some changes in her life, including her diet. I didn’t know her personally but I do know that most of us feel sorry for ourselves for far less and it struck me that to have this level of self-awareness and determination amidst the gravity and complexity of her situation was incredibly courageous.
She didn’t ask me for anything. She reached out merely to thank me for doing what I do and described her action plan to head to the grocery store in the morning to buy ingredients to try some new recipes. It amazed me that with everything she had going on that she found the time and precious energy to write. We had a back-and-forth about life, nutrition and her love of writing. She described some of the complexities of her illness on the dietary side, the biggest challenges that lay ahead and the goals she had set out to achieve them. I asked her if she would consider sharing her story on Inspired Edibles in case it might be helpful to others who were living with their own challenges. She was very keen and enthusiastic about it. I had never posted anything like it before on the blog and I wasn’t entirely sure how to introduce it at the time but the seed was planted.
As life rolled along and I continued to mull over how to incorporate personal stories like this, Annie was never far from my thoughts. This past Friday evening I started writing her a note to get an update and to see if she might still be keen to write and it was then that I came upon the sad news of her passing. I wish I could say that I had a poised response but I didn’t; it hit me hard and as I read the beautiful words written in her obituary, I imagined her family’s grief but also felt their joy and gratitude in having been surrounded by Annie’s kind, spirited and giving nature during her short life.
Although Annie’s story isn’t written here today in her own words, I wanted to honor her, however inadequately, with mine. Our stories are what unite us. They are what bring us together in our grief, our joy, our confusion and our fear. They offer us hope and love, companionship and support. They can also bring us some much needed perspective and act as a source of healing both for those sharing and those receiving.
So to dear Annie, I want you to know how profoundly you have touched my life and have given me every reason to open up my blog to personal stories such as your own. I don’t know what shape this might take over time or the full lessons we might learn from each other along the way, I only know that I needed to start.