Looking for rainbows after the loss of a friend

We swapped the best Netflix titles to make us laugh and keep us in good spirits. We made jokes about the horrible side effects of cancer treatment -- my charbroiled boobs and her swollen chipmunk cheeks. We told each other fears most people wouldn't understand. And when her texts stopped late last year, I continued to text her ever so often just to let her know I was thinking about her. 

We were planning to celebrate after we both beat cancer. I never imagined things happening any other way. So my heart broke when I realized that only one of us won the fight and the other would die trying.

My heart is so incredibly heavy.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't see the parallels in our journeys, though hers was much more extensive than mine. 

She was too young, too witty and too talented for things to end this way. She had just started the business she was obviously born to create. She had friends and family, a husband and fur babies who loved her. And while we'd known each other for years, it was illness that reconnected us in a unique way.

As I try to wrap my heart around this loss and remember the funny red head that messaged me out of the blue one day to extend her companionship, I feel confused (with lack of a better word). 

I am thankful for having known her; thankful that I didn't have to find strangers to relate to; thankful I had someone to laugh at my inappropriate cancer jokes and I am hopeful she felt the same about me.

Times of loss naturally cause us to re-evaluate life, examine our own mortality and realign our values. 

I think about how grateful I am for being given a second chance at life, but my heart aches because there was a chance my husband could be feeling what her husband feels right now. My parents and siblings could be feeling what her family feels right now, but they don't. 

My gratitude for being spared after the loss of a friend whose fight was similar to the one I won, carries with it a different kind of guilt. 

I feel guilty that I survived and she didn't and I don't understand why I was spared. And even though I don't understand why I've been spared, I'm so deeply thankful to be alive -- that makes me feel guilty, too. 

This sounds like the topic for my next therapy session so I'll just say it's a complicated feeling. 

Regardless, there's a part of me that believes something beautiful will blossom from this loss -- a rainbow after the rain. Someone will carry the torch to fund research for leukemia because cancer sucks. Someone may seek to bring more joy to others as an ode to her fun-loving personality. Someone may even start planning weddings for couples affected by cancer. You just never know how a life well lived will go on to change the world. 

And though I feel conflicted right now, I, personally, feel more determined than ever to make a difference in the lives of people affected by cancer because, in the words of Lindsay, I'm a "kick-ass woman" and it's time to "do the damn thing!"

In loving memory of Lindsay Van-Zant, the most "kick-ass" cancer slayer I've ever known.

All my love, thoughts and prayers to those she loved and the ones who loved her.