One Year

by Anna Boyle

Throughout our lives, we meet millions of people. Some people just cross our paths for an instant; others for a few moments; some for several years; and a handful for a lifetime.

A very rare few touch the world and the people in their lives in a way that changes them forever. Rachel was one of these precious jewels.

My best friend, Rachel Aber, lost her fight against ovarian cancer one year ago today. She had just turned 26 — six days before she left us — but you never would have known it if you'd seen the poise and grace with which she handled the cards dealt to her. You see, Rachel was a fighter. That might've gotten her in trouble a few times over the years ( ;-) ), but it served her well in this unexpected and unfair struggle. Rachel never gave up, even when the chemo stopped working and the cancer kept spreading.

But more importantly, Rachel was also a lover. We all knew at the end that there wasn't much left to HOPE for, short of a miracle, but you never would have known it if you'd talked to her. Even at the end — even when she was scared and sad and wondering what would happen next — she always put others first. Rachel wasn't worried about her own passing so much as the effect it would have on her family and friends. Rachel wasn't concerned as much with her own pain as she was with mine when I struggled with my disease. Rachel never put herself first; her thoughts were always with others. And I think that's the reason our thoughts are still always with her. She touched our hearts and lives in a way that can never be undone; she can never be forgotten.

I don't have the words to tell you what Rachel meant to me as a person or a friend. I'm not eloquent enough to sum up her life in a few short sentences; her time here was much too meaningful for that. I can't tell you how she changed my heart and touched my soul during the years throughout our friendship, and I'm not going to share my most personal memories with you — those belong to Rachel and me, and they will stay in my heart.

But I can share a few of Rachel's own words to let you know a little bit more about her. See, when she was a senior in high school, she had to make a "memory book" for one of her classes. I read through this book on the day of the ovarian cancer walk, and the last section brought tears to my eyes. There's nothing sad about it; it's just Rachel. And I think she'd like all of us to remember her words on this day, when our hearts are so tender and so open to her love:

"Epilogue: If I Could Live My Life All Over Again, I would ...

If I could live my life all over again, I would of course make different choices. Since I know the outcome of certain events now, I would change the way I handled them before. I would enjoy life more. I stress and worry about too many things that are really trivial in the end. It takes up a lot of my time in which I could be doing other things. Sometimes it would be nice to put life into rewind. I have done many actions which I wish I could change, but life is not about dwelling over the past. It is about the present and the future. So, yeah, you could forever say, 'If I could live my life over again I would do this and this and this,' but the fact is, you cannot do that. You can only learn from the life you have already lived. But if you do not live it to the fullest, you cannot learn anything. It is all about trial and error; nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. That is just a part of life.
If I had the chance, of course I would want to change things that have happened in my life, but the reality is I cannot do that. You have to face life as it comes to you and embrace it with open arms. Here is a good quote to live by: 'You can't change the past, but the future is whatever you want it to be."

Today, on the one-year anniversary of her death, I think Rachel is pushing us toward the future and encouraging us to embrace it with open arms. I don't think it's any coincidence that the sky is the brightest blue we've seen in a long while. I think Rachel is spreading her love over us and letting us know she's okay. And that it's okay to cry. It's okay to miss her. It's okay to wish that she was still here among us, close enough to call when we need to chat or to hug when we need some encouragement. That's all part of the process. That's all part of life. And that all goes to show that she's still here with us — no, not in physical form, but through her spirit and her soul. Rachel's light is still shining brightly, and it won't be diminished as time goes by. If anything, I expect her to grow even brighter.

Whenever you go to a campground, they tell you to leave your site in better condition than you found it. Well, that's exactly what Rachel did. She made this world a better place. She brightened the lives of those around her and always loved fully. She made you feel important — like you were truly worthy of love and all the things that come with it. And she really believed that. This world was a brighter place with Rachel in it — with her smile, her light, and her spirit — and the world she left behind is better because of her.

Now Rachel's light shines from above, and she's finding new ways to share her love and brighten our lives. She will forever be missed, but I know she's not gone. She lives forever in my heart, and her love fills my life. I can't wait until the day we're reunited in Heaven.

"Enjoy the highs. Draw on your strengths to get through the lows."
~Rachel Aber