My twin sister and I were born in 1994 in Mobile, Alabama. Excluding many details, less than 11 months after my birth, I had a heart transplant in Atlanta, Georgia at Egleston Children’s Hospital, today known as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Those who know me know the lengths I go to to appear as an average 21-year old. However, my story is more complicated. I firmly trust in the Lord that only those who need to read my story are reading it right now. Something I wish the seventeen-year-old me could read the twenty-one-year-old me write.
When I was seventeen, after Googling too much (everyone should avoid this) I came to the conclusion that my life would end far sooner than I expected. What I expected to be a full life of 70 years, at the end of a few weeks, changed to a hopeful 25 years.
It was a heavy burden then but weighs less now. However, to this day, I still have to stop, take a deep breath, and refocus.
Those first three months were like being lost in a black abyss where the sea is so shockingly cold, it’s numbing. I was mentally and emotionally unconnected to everything in my life. There were two very special people in my life who somehow found a way to help me open up about my old world that was spinning and falling apart and the new world that was unknown and painful.
God was also there, but at the time I felt He abandoned me. I had always been willing to do as He wished, but I felt He didn’t adequately prepare me for this kind of life.
Before I concluded I only had 8-10 more years, my life plan was nothing special, a balanced life centered around my family. I planned a life that included a husband and children. I imagined what they might go through if I left them. Thus, I would not let them exist at all.
If I couldn’t have a family, maybe I could have an impressive professional life, but what could I possibly achieve professionally before 30? So as time went on, it became easier to think only 7 or 8 years into the future with everything I had wanted being unattainable.
The things I want I can’t secure for myself. I can’t be the mother or wife I wanted to be, or the daughter or sister for that matter.
There is freedom that comes with this. Anyone could take anything away from me, do anything to me, and it can’t compare to the pain I feel knowing I will be the one that causes my parents to bury a child and the one who can’t be with my sister for the rest of her life.
If it’s God’s plan, I’m the one who might even abandon her husband and maybe her young children as well. Parents say that there’s nothing that compares to the pain of losing a child, so imagine you’re the child they lose but you know several years in advance and can’t stop it.
What was numb has come back to life. What was pain and shock has become unfailing trust. What were secrets has become faith in His plan for my life.
I am still reminded that my future is not as secure as it once appeared, but when fear starts to turn to anger and sadness I make a deliberate effort to focus on God’s presence around me. It’s hard to describe how it feels when I purposefully remind myself He is with me, and it is far greater to feel it than to read about it.
It feels like a friend is smiling down at me from higher up on an unknown mountain trail. When I’m sad or tired, it feels like my cheek falling on a trusted shoulder. When I’m angry, it’s hearing a soft plea, talk to Me. When I’m scared it’s a patient and resounding do not be afraid.