"We Love Andrea" was created to update Andrea's friends as she went through a difficult journey. After her second heart transplant when her pulse began to speed up she was given a pacemaker, then a Heart Mate II or LVAD. She was in the Stollery Children's Hospital, then the Mazankowski heart unit in Edmonton, Alberta for 7 months. However, she peacefully died on May 11, 2011 when the rest of her heart and other organs could handle the strain no longer. If you come to this blog, pray for her family and friends, send any memories of her you have to memories.of.andrea@gmail.com. Then sign your organ donor card.

Friday, February 7, 2014

See You In Heaven

  I was asked to write an article about losing Andrea for a book that's coming out filled with real-life experiences by real youth. And while I didn't mind doing so, it's sure brought many memories back. I love memories of Andrea but they do make me cry... Sitting in the sun with her outside of the University building the day some of us youth went to chapel service, listening to her talk about her travels, her shining blue eyes, the way we told each other everything... Anyway I thought I'd share that article here. It's been so long since anything has been posted.

       When I was about 8 years old, a new family moved to our congregation. I knew that the girl, who was a year younger than me, had been sick and even been in the hospital. What I didn't know was that she would be one of my closest friends for the next almost-ten years. What I didn’t know was that she would eventually die- as a result of the heart problems she'd faced all her life- just a few weeks short of her 17th birthday. 
     While her death wasn't a surprise, (and in some ways was a relief that her suffering was over) it still left a terrible hole in my life. My initial reaction was numbness, which lasted until her memorial service, and I actually saw with my own eyes that she had died. I remember very little of that time but I do remember shortly after her funeral asking Jesus to be my new Best Friend. He was, too. I told Him everything and He gave me strength to move on.  I spent a few days with her mother. We needed each other, and though being together was painful, we've developed a friendship through that time. I also connected with a lady who'd also lost a loved one, in her case a young daughter. We emailed and texted back and forth, keeping each other going on bad days, reminding each other we'd see them in heaven. Without a hope of heaven, anticipating seeing her, talking with her again, I don't know how I would have survived that time. 
     Her death did change me; I'm not the same person I was before. I hold my friends closer, I tell them I love them. I cry when heaven songs are sung. I seize the moment, knowing we aren't promised long life. I know how important it is to have an assurance of salvation. I no longer fear death, to me it will be like going to see my friends… I think we'll pick up talking right where we left off the last time we saw each other and we'll have so much to say!
     One of my most painful moments was realizing that the jokes we'd had, the stories we'd shared, were now only half a joke or part of a story. No longer could I say half a sentence and she'd know what I wasn't saying. No longer was there someone who knew so much about me and about whom I knew so much. With time I've made other friends just as close, but they didn't know me in pigtails, through school, the first years of youth. I lost part of my history when I lost her. 
     My encouragements to anyone who faces death are these: talk about them, it's healing. Find others who've been there or are there. Tell God how you feel, even if it's in anger. He'd rather have us angry than bitter and silent. Don't stay angry at Him though... Realize that it takes time to move on and you will never "get over it”. Let yourself cry when you're lonely, when you see a beautiful sunset, or hear a song about heaven. You will survive. You will be okay. Don't feel guilty when you can be happy again or go for an hour or a day without thinking of them. Let yourself smile, laugh, and make new friends. Look forward to your reunion in heaven, where you'll never say goodbye again. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Remembering Day

I'm having a great day, laughing and singing and the like when, bam, I remember... Two years ago, almost to the minute, Trish and I were visiting Andrea in the Edmonton Ronald McDonald House... We had an awesome time, laughing and talking and drinking free hot chocolate and just generally being normal girls:) Except that one of us was in a wheelchair with a very uncertain future... That was the evening she told me she was just going to think about getting better, she wasn't going to dream about the future and make long-term plans. I think that evening was the last time I really saw her laugh... And unless you knew Andrea's laugh, you don't know what a loss that was. I'll never forget that evening. Shortly after that she moved back into the hospital, that was the only time I saw her in the RMH.
I'm reminded again that grieving is a life-long process. You can find closure, you can move on, but there's always a hole in your heart. And I'm reminded again why we hold our friends close while they're alive.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Echoes

Have you heard them lately? There have been a lot of them in my life the last week: memories of Andrea... Echoes of conversations we had, jokes we shared, sometimes, when I'm really listening, I think I can hear her laugh echoing down from heaven.
How can it be nearly a year? What amazes me is that I'm still alive myself. Before she died, thinking of losing her was surreal. I wondered, "Would I survive that? Would I ever be happy again?" The answer is yes, in proportion to the pain, God gives grace. In proportion to the grief, He sends joy. And when the initial shock and denial wear off, the resting in the fact that she's in a better place is gone, when the fact that I'll never see her here again hits home, that's when joy comes back too. You see, losing someone is like a really strong anaesthetic. You don't feel any pain, it's true, and it's absolutely necessary to get you through the first while. But it's not until that begins to wear off that you feel like truly laughing, smiling, singing again.
Now, though, as it's almost a year there are so many memories flooding my mind. "a year ago" Do you realise that it's only 18 days until it'll be a year since she died? And in exactly one month would be her 18th birthday? I've been very conscious of that... So it's bittersweet, sad that she's gone, that I'll never see her on this earth again, and yet a rejoicing because the year of painful "firsts" is over. And I'm so thankful that God helps me to move past my tears without forgetting her laughter.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Memorial service, missing Andrea, and moving on

It's been a long time since I posted anything but no, I have not forgotten Andrea or all you friends who supported me and all the rest of us who lost her. There are days when I wonder how I'll go my whole life without ever talking to her again, there's so much to talk about. However, here in my new place Ive made a new friend who hasn't replaced Andrea in the least but has filled that 'best friend' spot every girl has in her heart. Two weeks ago there was a 'hearts' memorial service at the Maz and she made the long, 10 hour round trip with me to Edmonton and back for that. It was healing and beautiful, I cried like I haven't cried in months... I went away from that service a little more healed, a little less sad, and maybe almost ready to move on...
Andrea, I'll never forget you. Thanks for being my 'forever friend'. I can hardly wait to see you again. "and we'll be friends forever, Jesus and you and me, He ties our hearts together and friends we'll always be..."
Love your friend,
Natalie

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in heaven

I see the countless Christmas trees
around the world below
With tiny lights, like Heaven's stars,
reflecting on the snow

The sight is so spectacular,
please wipe away the tear
For I am spending Christmas with
Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs
that people hold so dear
But the sounds of music can't compare
with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you,
the joy their voices bring,
For it is beyond description,
to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me,
I see the pain inside your heart.
But I am not so far away,
We really aren't apart.

So be happy for me, dear ones,
You know I hold you dear.
And be glad I'm spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.

I sent you each a special gift,
from my heavenly home above.
I sent you each a memory
of my undying love.

After all, love is a gift more precious
than pure gold.
It was always most important
in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other,
as my Father said to do.
For I can't count the blessing or love
He has for each of you.

So have a Merry Christmas and
wipe away that tear.
Remember, I am spending Christmas with
Jesus Christ this year.



*This poem was written by a 13 year old girl named Lysandra Kay Bencke
Lysandra had a seizure and was in a coma for five days before she died
on the anniversary of our Lord's birthday, Christmas Day 1997