Monday, November 23, 2009

Breathing Well

"Breathing is the greatest pleasure in life." ~Giovanni Papini

"For most people, taking a breath is just something you do without even thinking about it. But for me, it has become something that is not only on the front of my mind all the time, but something I must constantly work at to get around from day to day." ~Joel Cummings, 7/20/09

I am sitting in a dark office, my chest constricting, and eyes full of tears. I'm not really sure why the news of Joel's passing hit so hard. Less than an hour ago my best friend texted to ask if I'd heard Joel had died. That short sentence transported me back to 7th grade math class. Though Joel and I had gone to the same church for as long as I could remember, we had never really spoken and I cannot for the life of me remember what we were discussing in math class that resulted in Joel saying, "I'll probably die before I'm 20," but those words and the look on his elfin face were burned into my memory.

Throughout the rest of junior high and all through high school it was easy to forget Joel had a terminal illness - Cystic Fibrosis. We traveled together on youth group trips and he was active in tennis. I never saw the appeal of the sport in which felted yellow balls were launched at mach speed at my head, but had several friends who did. Our older siblings dated for awhile, which resulted in several shared meals and holiday celebrations. We graduated from high school in 2003 and went on our separate paths - seeing each other from time to time during the holidays at church, but never really speaking.

It wasn't until several months ago I started hearing rumors that Joel was in desperate of a lung transplant. The town rallied together and organized fundraiser after fundraiser to help Joel and his wife raise the $250,000 needed in hand to be evaluated for a lung transplant. The last I had heard a couple lungs had come through.

Last night, Joel passed on - leaving a young widow, three dogs, his family, and a community grieving. I rejoice in knowing Joel is breathing the fresh air of Heaven with 100% lung capacity now. He's probably playing tennis with the angels as I type this.

Joel, I bet Jesus will school you on your backhand. Peace until we meet again, brother.

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