Merideth and I met my 3rd day at college. Her dorm room was at the end of our hallway. I mosied down the hall to meet some new friends and found myself sitting in her room chatting with her and some other girls from down the hall. Six of us sat and ended up chatting late into the night about everything from our favorite colors to what motivated us to get up in the morning. The question came around the room, “Who is your hero?” and it was Merideth’s turn to speak. Tears welled up in her eyes as she looked as us. She took a minute and then said confidently, “Jesus is my hero. He wakes me up every morning and he doesn’t have to do that. He gave me life and he gave me a new kidney when I needed it. He keeps me alive every day and I’m always thankful for that.” I remember sitting there in awe of her answer. She was so thankful for the small details that I overlooked everyday.
Over the next year Merideth and I grew our friendship over many laughs, late night conversations, ridiculous movies, junk food, and moments of worship. We had worked out our rooming for the following year and decided to room together. That summer before sophomore year of college I went to visit Merideth and her family in Ohio a few weeks before school started. We wanted to plan who was bringing what and the details about moving. But that weekend ended up being more to me than that. That summer my dad had lost his job, had a “heart event”, and my mom and I had to move out of our apartment because she had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and had to retire. I was overwhelmed with the stress of life. Merideth welcomed me in the driveway with a huge hug. I felt so welcomed and so Merideth gave out so much peace and joy. That weekend I laughed harder than I ever have and Merideth and I built a major foundation for our friendship.
We moved into to school so excited about the year ahead. Living together that year brought so many new challenges and MANY new memories. I could go on forever about the little memories that we shared and the big moments that stretched us and grew our friendship closer. That year of college Merideth became sick multiple times. The first was the Swine Flu…which dampened her spirit only a little bit but did a major hit to her body. She than began experiencing kidney transplant rejection. I drove Merideth to the hospital in our town because her symptoms were becoming severe. That night Merideth was rushed by ambulance home to Ohio from Marion. I was so uncertain and scared for Merideth but as she was wheeled down the hall to leave she gave me a double ‘thumbs up’, which was our universal sign that everything was going to be “ok”. After mounds of tests and months later she returned to college to work on her nursing degree, but was dependent on dialysis. She handled the transition with such grace and perseverance! And she never complained. The machine was set up in our room and she so mightily faced that challenge every day. I was amazed at her determination to keep living full of life and joy and to not let this be a “Set back”. She continued to study and work towards her nursing degree– with intense motivation and determination everyday. She got up every morning and left for class– no matter how horrible she felt. She held on to Jesus as her strength everyday.
I close my eyes and can still smell her soft blonde hair– the smell of “Pure Grace” from Philosophy. I hear the loud cackle laugh that she occasionally let escape from the depths of her bubbly soul. Followed by the signature dance moves that she graced us all with frequently in college (typically a movement of the knees, followed by her arms in the air in different motions). But what I remember most is her unwavering JOY. There were definitely days when I knew she could barely get out of bed because she was so weak and tired, & then I’d see her from across our room. There she was getting herself ready for another day. Another day she wasn’t always excited to conquer, but she always did with confidence.
Everything about Merideth was rooted in Christ’s ability to conquer the impossible with victory. Even on the days when we sat and cried together because we weren’t sure what tomorrow would look like, she still decided to firmly trust in his glorious plan for her life. In the short life that she lived, she focused her affections on Jesus. She found pride in her faithful and loving family. She was an incredible and selfless friend.
In an essay for school Merideth wrote the following:
“The more we trust God the more we learn that he is faithful and capable of doing great and awesome things…Each time He meets our need we are strengthened in faith and ready to accept the next challenge and the “process” continues and our faith grows stronger.”
She is missed everyday– she will always be the most extravagant depiction of JOY to me. I’m letting her words settle deep in my heart today. The more we trust God– the more we learn that he is capable of awesome things…. and through her my faith has grown stronger and deeper. I’m missing her always and can’t wait to see her again. Thanks, my friend, for teaching me so much about JOY and His strength.