Small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.


Dear Courtney

Dear Courtney,

I vaguely remember seeing your last Facebook post about being sick and needing a nurse and a nanny. I remember thinking it was kind of funny and sounded like something you would say. It was March of 2010. I first realized you had passed away when someone tagged you in a picture and it said R.I.P. It appeared on my feed and I was shocked. I looked at your page and saw all the posts people had made praying for you. It was obvious you had dealt with some sort of sickness and didn't make it. I was so sad. We hadn't seen each other since high school, but you were always the nicest and happiest person. Looking at the pictures of you online I instantly remembered that beautiful smile and laugh. You were always laughing or being silly.

In May of the same year I became pregnant. I was due January 29, 2011. On January 23rd I became very sick with the flu. A few days later I was taken into the hospital and on January 29th they finally decided to take the baby for the health of both of us. I was put under for a c-section and woke up around March 1st. Turns out the flu had become pneumonia and then progressed into ARDS. I had to be put into a medically induced coma for a life support machine to try and save my life. It worked. After I woke up, I spent three more weeks in the hospital, including two weeks at a rehab center learning to use my body again. I couldn't raise my arms, I couldn't stand up, I couldn't eat food, or even lift myself up in my bed. I was trapped inside my body and it was awful. I remember laying in bed unable to move the first few weeks wondering why God had done this to me. By then Landon, my son, was over six weeks old and I still hadn't seen him. My friends, family, nurses, doctors and even complete stranger were constantly telling me how God had performed a miracle on me. I had been given less than a ten percent chance of survival by my doctors. Still to this day, over two years later, I have people tell me how they prayed for me. How they knew that God wanted me to be here and that I was saved for my little boy. They were, and still are, very sure of that.

It wasn't right away that I thought of you. I got home on March 26th and the one year anniversary of your death was April 1st. Once again your picture appeared on my Facebook feed. I cannot even being to explain the sadness that washed over me when I saw your picture again. I knew that it was some sort of medical illness that took your life, but I didn't know what. It took months for me to get up the courage, but I finally messaged your sister and asked her what had happened to you. She said you became sick with double pneumonia and never pulled through. You had three beautiful children, twins that were just babies, who relied solely on you and yet you were gone. I had one little boy and a husband who was my partner in parenting and I was the one who had been "saved by God". I had already been struggling with God and where I stood with him on my situation. Remembering you, and finding out how similar our illnesses were, made it that much worse. Why did God save me and not you? What purpose did I have that you didn't?

At first the survivors guilt made me question my life, my purpose and the direction I wanted to take it in. I felt the need to do/be something big. I wanted to help people in a life changing way, I wanted to find a meaningful career, I wanted to be perfect and do everything perfect so that I could feel justified in "being saved". I thought I should always be happy and never again have a fight with my husband or not enjoy every second with my child. I felt like I needed to be the perfect person just to justify my life. It was overwhelming to say the least. I was unhappy with my job and mad at myself every time I snapped at my Husband or was thankful when my Son was finally asleep. The pressure of being perfect was just as hard as the guilt of surviving. At one point I got up the courage to ask my Father, who almost died in Vietnam, if he ever had survivors guilt. It was a hard thing to say out loud to another person. I didn't want to seem ungrateful or unhappy to be alive, but I couldn't shake feeling confused and almost guilty at times for being here when you were not. Everyone else was so happy that I was alive and would constantly tell me everything I had to live for, but some days all I could feel was sadness. Sadness for you and all that you were missing out in life, for your kids, your family and close friends.

It was probably about a year later, but I finally stopped trying to prove my existence and stopped asking why. I stopped feeling like I had to live a perfect a life to compete with the amazing life I know you would have been living if you were still here. I stopped competing with my image of you and stopped comparing what I should be doing to what I imagined you would be doing. I don't remember exactly what caused this, but I would go to your Facebook page constantly and see the pictures of you with that huge smile on your face. I realized that if you here you would be happy and that was all that really mattered. I felt like your happiness of life eventually seeped into me. I knew I had to stop asking why and just start living my life, because that's what you would be doing. I eventually came to the conclusion that I couldn't truly believe that God really saved me and not you. Maybe it was just my wonderful team of doctors or that my condition wasn't as severe as yours. Feeling this way has allowed me to move on and stop asking the why.

I know for many people that believe that God saved me (and that is just about everyone), they will not understand what I mean or how I feel. Over forty years later, my Dad knows why he was saved and knows it was God who saved him. I don't know if I will ever be that person. If I will ever be able to come to terms with my existence on Earth, your death, and God playing a role in both, But I'm ok with that, because I've found true happiness in being alive and just living life and not asking questions. I believe in God, his presence in our lives, and his power, but I've settled on being unknown if he has his hand in everything that happens. Because I've stopped trying to figure that out, I live my imperfect and sometimes mundane life to the fullest. I think of you often, but now it's always in way that lifts me up. Instead of being overwhelmed by the feeling of survival, I am overwhelmed with the feeling of life. It's the same feeling that I get from seeing your smile or thinking about us being goofy in class.

I know I will never sit and read this letter to you, but I hope you are listening. We were never close friends, but please know that now I think about you almost everyday.You've touched my life in a way that few people ever will. I think of your smile, your laughter and your silliness. I think of your gorgeous children and all that life has to offer them. Instead of competing against you and feeling inadequate in my life, I've been able to move forward and just be happy with what is. I hope that you can understand my need to say all of this. I feel just as guilty now for ever having felt this way. I know you are in a better place watching those beautiful babies grow and that the happiness you had in life is multiplied in the next. In some way I hope that you feel as connected to me as I feel to you. I hope that a little of my life brings you happiness as you have done for me. Most all, I just wanted to say thank you.



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