Lisa Bonchek Adams
All day long, there's been a weight on my heart, because someone I never met has died.
Lisa Bonchek Adams had metastatic breast cancer. She blogged here. She tweeted here. I was one of her readers, but we never exchanged words. I wasn't a friend. She had plenty of friends already, and they hurt a lot worse than I do today. So do her husband and three children, and her parents, who have lost their beloved daughter. She was only 45.
Lisa tweeted this message regularly, usually first thing in the morning: Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can't find it, create it. Some days this may be hard to do. Persevere.
She persevered. In fact, a week before she died, she shared a cache of garden photos taken over the summer. It was apparent that things were serious, but she wasn't a complainer. Nor was she a martyr. That was how she set herself apart in my mind. She hated her disease, hated it with everything she had, was not going to conceal its awfulness for a second. But she made it a point to love her life just as fiercely. She lived honestly, guided by a clarity of vision, always educating others about her setbacks and treatments, not because she relished the attention but because in sharing and educating, she found a way to control a fraction of her fate. She was famous on Twitter for her #mondaypleads, in which she begged her followers to make a healthcare appointment they'd been putting off. And people listened. Through her educating and "nagging," she likely saved countless lives.
In her case, that's not hyperbole. Lisa didn't exaggerate. I wouldn't dare do so on her behalf.
When I was walking the dog yesterday, I noticed the beauty of the snow. Yes, it was beautiful, in spite of my winter-sourness at this time of year. The sun was fierce, but there was still snow lining the branches of the woods by our house. The sky was a tonic of blue. Birds were darting over my head, robins were singing their little hearts out. I could feel springtime in the air, even as my feet slid out from under me.
But the beauty hurt, because Lisa wasn't there to see it. I thought about her children, the youngest of whom is nine. I don't care what kind of preparation they had: one minute their mother was there, the next minute she was not. You can't prepare for that. Even Lisa, queen of memory boxes and advanced directives, couldn't prepare them for that. And so they're suffering today. And so, even when spring finally comes, they'll keep a sliver of winter in their hearts. Not just this year, but always.
I was just a stranger. But I wanted Lisa to live until the spring, or summer. Even when it seemed apparent that she wasn't going to make it. I wanted her to see her garden again. I didn't want her to die in the cold.
Of course, she didn't. She died, at home, surrounded by her family. And she died having planted thousands of seeds in the hearts of those who knew her, or felt like they did. Over the years, her garden will grow, and cast seeds of its own. Who knows how far the wind will carry them? None of us can know the impact of a single life lived so fully in the sun.
So Lisa will persevere. Her children will continue to be the heart of her garden. And through them, her life and love will flourish.
While I'm thankful today to have been brushed by her beauty, even a little.
If you'd like to donate to Lisa Bonchek Adams' metastatic breast cancer research fund at Memorial Sloan Kettering, please go here. Less than 5% of breast cancer funds go toward metastatic breast cancer research, in spite of the fact that 20-30% of breast cancer patients will eventually have a metastases. Every bit helps.
And please, make a healthcare appointment if you've been putting one off.