It's April and every April, I start thinking about my friend, coincidentally named April, who passed away from Cystic Fibrosis. I can't help thinking about her. She was a HUGE part of my childhood and teen years.
(If you don't know much about CF, watch the video above. It's a cool little explanation.)
April passed away the October after I got married, so it's been almost 22 years now. That's just shocking to me because it seems like just yesterday she was bugging me to watch Dirty Dancing with her for the bazillionth time!
April loved to dance. All her life, she loved dancing. She took lessons and pushed herself even though it sometimes breathing was a struggle. Dancing made her happy. I think she felt free when she danced, so we would sit and watch Dirty Dancing over and over whenever she came to visit. It was a little thing we did.
I don't remember the first time I met April. She was just always there. I remember her as a baby because she was about 4 years younger than me. I knew she was sick as a baby and heard all the whispering between the adults about her health. As she got older, it wasn't a secret that she had CF. I watched her take her breathing treatments. I watched her mom and dad beat her back to loosen up all the gunk in her chest. I watched her go in and out of the hospital.
Over and over, she was in the hospital. It also seemed like the older she got, the sicker she became and the more time she spent in the hospital. Her mom and dad took her out of state to be treated. It was a drain on them--emotionally, financially, in every way, I'm sure.
That was normal though. To us, it was just who she was. She was like a little sister to me. She could be annoying. She could make me laugh. Mostly, we had fun together because we were around one another a LOT because our parents were friends.
We grew up and I had my friends. She was younger and in a different school--when she was able to go. She spent a lot of time at home or in the hospital with tutors or with her mom studying. We still stayed close though and our families continued to visit with each other.
When it was time for me to get married, her mom suggested I go with her to Columbus to pick April up from one of her hospital stays. It was a long drive, but I wanted to go--not just to see April, but because there was an outlet there and I wanted to see if they had any bridesmaids dresses. We went shopping first because we knew April couldn't handle shopping. She was really not doing well at this point. She was skinny. I remember as we looked through the dresses trying to find something to fit her, her mother said to get the smallest size we could. She said it wouldn't matter because it would be too big and we'd have to take it in anyway.
I hadn't seen April for a while until that day. She was going to be a bridesmaid in my wedding, but she'd be in and out of the hospital, I'd been busy with college and planning a wedding--life just got in between. We went to the hospital to pick her up and I was surpised to see how frail she looked. She'd always been skinny as a rail, but she just didn't look well.
We went home and I cried. I hoped she'd be able to make it to the wedding. She was on oxygen by the wedding, so I decided instead of being a bridesmaid, she could be the book attendant so she could sit, but still wear her pretty dress.
The day of our wedding, however, she was back in the hospital in Columbus. She didn't get to wear her dress and I didn't see April again. I got married and moved almost 1000 miles away. I always thought there would be "later" to see her, but there just wasn't. At some point that summer, I asked my mom to give her my copy of Dirty Dancing. I knew watching it was her escape and she watched it over and over when she didn't feel well.
Three months after the wedding, she died in a hospital in Pittsburgh while waiting on a lung transplant. I hated getting that phone call and I hated it that I couldn't fly home to see her one last time.
To this day, I cry when I hear this song.
I hadn't watched Dirty Dancing in its entirety since 1991 until last Christmas. I just couldn't do it. I would try, but I just couldn't do it. Even now, sitting here listening to this song, I have tears.
I believe she sends me special little messages. A few years ago, I was on Facebook and a friend suggestion popped up. It was her name which shocked me. I clicked on the link, but there was no photo and no information. It was a totally empty profile, but it was her name. Later, I looked at the calendar and realized it was her birthday.
I don't believe in coincidences.
Happy Birth Month, April. I really do hope you had the time of your life. I know you're out there watching over us all. You have a special spirit that will always watch over those you love. (And yes, I know that. ;))