Stacie’s life had been hard. Though she was supported by devoted parents and a sister who loved her, her path had not been an easy one. Abused as a child, her first marriage was also an abusive one. Physical and emotional pain led to an addiction to pain killers that led to further complications. Soon after she won her battle against addiction, cancer attacked. Only 38 years old, once again she found herself encompassed by pain.
“Let’s do it,” I responded.
“Ok. Are you sure?” she replied immediately.
Though I could not see her words gush, I could feel them. “You just made my entire day,” she typed. “I’m super excited. I totally need that.”
“Thanks for being so magnificent,” she said in a separate entry. “I’m so excited.”
That was October 9, 2016. On October 13 she emailed me the tickets and Facebooked me an update on her health. “Keep me up dated,” I requested to which she promised, “I will.”
And that was the last I heard from her….which actually was not too surprising at first. Over the years, Stacie has reached out to me when she needed me but the need has been sporadic. We’ve always reconnected with love and good feelings but sometimes months (and months) pass between connections.
I began to wonder, however, when November 11th came and I had not heard from her. I knew she was excited to listen to John Bytheway (many, MANY people are), I knew she was excited to spend time with me (there are people who like that too, though not as many as want to spend time with John), and I knew, or thought I knew, that she would reach out to me to confirm our plans.
“Are we still on for tomorrow?” I wrote in an early morning Facebook message. “What time shall I pick you up?”
Though we did not frequently communicate, her response to my infrequent communications had always been immediate. My wonder turned to concern when afternoon came but no response came from Stacie. I called her. “The person you have called is unavailable,” I was told, “and the mailbox is full.” I texted. Still no response.
To celebrate our wedding anniversary (22 years—most of them happy!), Lance and I attended Syracuse High School’s performance of “The Pirate Queen”. Standing our kitchen, after the performance, I engaged in a small, internal skirmish. Should I drive to Stacie’s house or not?
- The next day was the John Bytheway conference I was supposed to attend with Stacie.
- I had not yet heard back from her.
- It was 10:00 at night.
- I am NOT a night person. My preferred bed time is 9:00 p.m. At 9:30 p.m. I turn into a pumpkin and by 10:00 p.m. the pumpkin-me often turns to stone. Night time is not my favorite time.
- Morning is not Stacie’s favorite time.
Fueled by kind thoughts about Stacie—she would appreciated a night visit more than a morning one—and the pragmatic reality that a 10:00 p.m. Friday night visit would probably disrupt her household less than an 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning visit, I climbed by into my truck and drove to Stacie’s house.
No lights on, no car in the driveway…but there was a faint blue glow coming from an upstairs window.
I rang the doorbell. The dogs barked but no one came. “Understandable,” I thought. “If someone were at my door at this hour, I would disregard it at first, hoping the sound I heard was not really for me.”
I rang the doorbell again. More barking.
Determined to make contact, I knocked. Loudly.
Eventually I heard someone descending the stairs to the entry way. The door opened and Stacie’s husband, Dan, filled the doorway.
“I am so sorry for disturbing you at this time of night,” I apologized quickly. “It’s just that Stacie and I are supposed to go to a conference tomorrow morning and I have not heard back from her and I am getting a little worried…. Is she okay?” I ended lamely.
“I am so sorry to tell you this,” he said kindly. “Stacie passed away two weeks ago.’
He continued talking but I stopped hearing. Shock. Disbelief. Tears. Memories…...
I remember the blood specks (really little specks, tiny actually) left in the snow, blood that came from cuts in her hands caused by crawling up a snow covered ridge on her hands and knees because she refused to wear snow shoes and I (her high school science teacher at the time) refused to let her stay in the lodge. She learned she could do hard things and I learned that hard love is real love.
Real love brought Stacie and I together again and again and again. We came together when her first marriage became too threatening, when she shot a hole in her foot, when she caused an accident that scared her towards straight, when her teenage son was baptized, and when she was diagnosed with cancer. And every time we came together she brought a gift.
Stacie loved gifts. She especially loved giving gifts. A pair of froggy slippers, a pink, fluffy robe, a plaque decoratively adorned with a friendship quote, a box of inspirational sayings….Stacie always brought me a gift when we connected. “It’s nothing,” she would say as she hesitantly extended the offering accompanied by a piece of her heart.
She was wrong. It was not nothing. It was something, something very special.
Stacie continues to give me gifts.
I used the tickets she bought to take my son Miles to the “When Life Is Hard” conference. Like Stacie, Miles listens to and loves John Bytheway. We had a fabulous time at the event. Stacie ‘s gift gave us an excellent experience , shared memories, and inspired insights.
One of the inspired insights Stacie’s gift gave me came from Meg Johnson, the conference’s second presenter. Meg told a story of having an “I need chocolate therapy” day. On her way to the mall for some shopping therapy (some days chocolate is not enough….) she grabbed two chocolate bars, one for herself and one to give away. She prayed that God would help her find someone else who needed chocolate therapy and was directed to a wild, red-headed teen who’d had a falling out with her mother. (Meg tells the story much better than I.)
Stacie’s gift and Meg’s story connected in my mind. Meg had a great spiritual experience AND blessed the life of a teenage girl because she was willing to pray for a prompting and then follow it. She shared a gift and got a greater gift in return. By following Meg’s example, I can honor and extend Stacie’s gift, sharing her love (and His) to hundreds (365 to be exact) of people.
Today is my birthday. Today I start my “Stacie’s Gift” year. Every day of my 53rd year, I will start the day with a prayer in my heart and a package of candy in my pocket. “Lord, I have a treat,” I will say. “Please send me to someone who needs it.” I will listen for His promptings and then follow them.
Stacie’s gift will continue to bless my life. And who knows….maybe it will bless yours as well.