There’s this funny rule about not giving away the endings to stories, especially when they’re still in the process of being written. But sometimes an ending is such a foregone conclusion that it simply doesn’t make sense to try to hide it. It would be like trying to pretend that sunrise doesn’t come after night, or thunder after lightning, or gas after broccoli. Just, duh.
And so that’s why, in this particular tale, the only real place to begin is at the end. Which is when my friend, Nella, royally kicks the crap out of cancer and leaves it crumpled and broken, dry-heaving over a subway grate like a sad, lonely drifter who tried to pick Superman’s pocket. BOOYAH. Smackdown time. It’s about to get all kinds of WWE up in here.
But then there’s that quote about the journey being only half the battle, or American heroes not just being at their destination. Or something like that. I may be getting my Ralph Waldo Emerson confused with my G.I. Joe, but you know what I mean. In short, there’s more to a story than its ending. Likewise, there is more to Nella than her triumph; there’s also all of the everything that comes between now and then.
There is the story of Nella.
The first thing you should know about Nella is, you wish you knew Nella. You wish she was your friend. You wish you got to spend even just one minute chatting with her over coffee, or curled up on the couch in her cozy living room talking about all the stuff you always think you want to talk about with a friend but don’t, because you don’t have that friend who always knows exactly what to say and how to say it. Because you don’t have a Nella.
The second thing you should know about Nella actually starts with something about me. Which is a completely self-centered thing to do, but I’ll now revise my “second thing” and change it to this: The second thing you should know about Nella is that she is probably the most gracious and accepting person on the planet, even when she’s putting up with self-centered people. Nella is the friend who will look you square in the eye and tell you that thing you just said or did was seriously messed up, and then make a self-deprecating joke and move on, because even if she has opinions (and like most spirited women, she does), she never tries to play the judge. Even when reaching the point of understanding and moving on means she has to cross painful barriers. I know this to be true because I am writing this post about my friend Nella, and not my ex-friend Nella, in spite of the fact that I take to the internet and sometimes make crass jokes about things that are not jokes to her. Do you know she reads me anyway? Even though we have these differences in opinion, and some of the things I write are hurtful for her? She reads me anyway. Because she is my friend and she knows I’m chasing my dream and she may not always agree with me, but she supports me.
Maybe that’s actually part of the whole, “You wish you knew Nella” thing. Because that’s incredible. You know it’s incredible, because you don’t know anyone like that. Because you don’t know Nella.
So, now the third thing, which used to be the second thing, and starts with something about me… The most meaningful, amazing compliment I’ve ever received in my entire life was this:
“You know how some people have a spark? You don’t have a spark; you have a fire.”
I remember exactly how old I was when I received that compliment. I remember who said it, where we were, the weather. The way those words hung in the air for a minute before drifting away. I lovingly collected each syllable, reassembled them in my mind and placed them under glass. I’m possessive of them – protective, jealous. Those words have attached themselves to the core of my being, sustained me through times I thought unsustainable, and I have never once before shared them publicly because doing so feels uncomfortably intimate, not even like being naked, but so much more open than that – like holding my very heart out and showing the world what makes it beat.
And I have certainly never applied those words to other people.
The second time I met Nella, I thought:
“That girl doesn’t just have a fire; she’s a damned inferno.”
And she is.
You wish you knew Nella. The way she blazes through life. How she adores her husband, and the love story they share that gives the lie to every single time you heard someone say that “love like that only happens in movies.” It doesn’t. It happens in real life, too. If you know Nella.
You wish you knew the way she is dedicated to her family, the five children she shepherds through each day and the sixth nestled in her belly, the child she made certain would be safe and protected through her rounds of chemo.
You wish you knew her wicked sense of humor, the way she enters a room and immediately makes everything that much brighter.
You wish you knew the way she infuses everything around her with light and life and joy and grace and pee-your-pants hilarity, the way her fire burns like a phoenix making everything around her newer and better, just for having been near her.
You wish you knew Nella.
Because if you knew Nella, you would be feeling soooooo sorry for cancer right now. You’d be at that point in the scary movie where you’re all yelling at cancer, “No, no, don’t go in there!” But cancer was stupid and bee-bopped on in, and now it’s on like Donkey Kong. Being some gloves and a smock; this shit ain’t gonna be pretty.
If you knew Nella, you’d already know the ending to this story, too. Just, duh.
If you knew Nella, you would know that Nella kicks cancer’s ass. The end.
So, of one thing I am currently certain: You wish you knew Nella. Lucky for you, you can! She is blogging her pregnancy/cancer journey over on Is There McDonald’s in Heaven? She is funny and insightful, and you should totally go check her out.
When I wrote the post above, I shared it with Nella because 1) Why not? Shouldn’t she get to know how awesome we all think she is? and 2) I wanted to make sure it was okay with her for me to post it publicly. She agreed with me sharing it, but wanted to have the chance to offer some words of her own. I said, “Sure,” thinking it would just be an introduction and blog link. Instead, she sent what you see below. “It’s longer than a blurb should be,” she wrote, “but I think it’s all important.” I won’t go into details on how funny it feels for me to put these words on my own blog, where I so often talk about the many ways I fail and screw things up… Instead I just want to say how humbled and honored I am to consider this woman one of my friends. So much love to you, Nella. So much.
Well, how exactly do you follow up something like that? About yourself? Especially when, in order for you to write this blurb you are allowing your kids to eat lunch meat for breakfast so they will just leave you alone. Extra especially when, you could pretend like you’re only letting them do that because of how urgent it is that you write this blurb but the truth is they do stuff like that a lot because the morning is the worst and then you realize maybe that doesn’t jive with the lavishly kind words that Jaimie has just shared. I don’t want to take over Jaimie’s blog, but maybe you should learn something about our hostess. You need to know that she is the most gracious and accepting person on the planet, and any success I’ve had in that area is from emulating her example. You should also know that those gorgeous photos she shares of her family are the real deal. You’re not seeing a snapshot family that is only like that 15% of the time. They’re really that awesome. It’s even more awesome when you realize that their beautiful family life is the result of the very intentional way Nick and Jaimie have constructed their lives and their family culture. It’s easy to feel like you’re being the very opposite of intentional because life so often flies faster than the speed of our intentions. But make no mistake, that beautiful family is the result of careful thought, profound love, and noble intentions. So, you should know that about our hostess Jaimie. Love fest over. It’s almost 11am and I’m still in my pajamas. Thank you Jaimie. Thank you for being my friend, and pointing people towards my spoutings. You are a blessing.