Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ashley Comes to Florida for Kate's 30th Birthday

Normally I turn to Jeremy and Kate to be the public voice of our transplant, but today I decided to venture out and actually write a blog post myself. You’ll have to forgive me as I can’t quite capture humor in writing as Jeremy does, or details like Kate. They are both weighing heavily on my mind right now. I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting on my flight to North Carolina to board. I’ve just left from my first visit to see them since the surgery. It is actually my first time flying since I spent a month in California with my family in 2009. Jeremy and I (admittedly, mostly Jeremy) have been secretly planning this trip for over a month. Kate turns 30 on the 30th, and this visit was a birthday surprise. What a great husband, right?! And yes, I’m required to sing his praises since he did give me a kidney and all.

We just passed our 3 month anniversary, or more aptly, our 3 month transplantversary on May 21st. Perhaps that is why I felt so full of emotion on the flight down. Every time I visualized the look of surprise on Kate’s face I would well up and have to swallow down any urge to cry. I’m not big on ugly crying in public. The closer we got to West Palm Beach, the more anxious I began to feel. For a reason I cannot explain, part of me felt afraid. Eventually I reached the airport and went to meet them outside. When they pulled up, Kate sat blindfolded in the front seat of the door-less Jeep.  Jeremy had blindfolded her so she wouldn’t be able to guess her surprise. When he took her blindfold off, a huge smile took over her face and we hugged for what must have been a good 5 minutes. I could hear the people surrounding us laughing. I imagine we were quite the sight!  I would like to say that all of the feelings I was having on the plane melted away when I saw their Jeep pull up to get me, but that was not the case. When I realized I was going to have to ride in a Jeep without any doors, I can honestly say I knew exactly why I felt afraid at that moment! I buckled myself in securely and would occasionally close my eyes on the ride home whenever I was sure we were going to wreck and I was about to die.

We spent my time there in a timeshare on the beach in Delray, Florida. We relaxed, shared wonderful, if not enlightening, conversation, laughed, and ate some delicious food. Kate and I were both reading The Hunger Games, she was finishing The Hunger Games and starting Catching Fire and I was finishing Catching Fire and starting Mockingjay.  Our first night there, we stayed on the beach until dark reading. Then we stayed to catch up on one another’s lives, while periodically going on tangents and laughing at ourselves. You know ... the kind of moments memories are made of. I got to see her family, who are as close to my heart as my own family, and I got to meet some of the people from Kate and Jeremy’s small group. When we went to church on Sunday morning, one couple from the small group gave me a card that was from everyone in the group. Inside the card was a beautiful message and a very generous gift. I was pretty surprised and very thankful.

On Sunday, Kate’s sister Amy, her husband Nathan, and their children Alivia and Jackson came to visit us in Delray. Both Alivia and Jackson were little water bugs. Jackson, being not even a year old, stayed in my arms the whole time we were in the pool … and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. He was the most precious thing I have experienced in a long time. He just laughed and squealed and enjoyed the world around him. It’s that kind of genuine happiness that I think most of us lose as we get older. It takes more and more to make us feel even the slightest bit of complacency.  We just want and want and want, without even noticing the simplest joy. Even Alivia was alternating between enjoying the water herself and taking in the antics of her little brother. 

While they were there, we had ourselves a little barbeque. Or at least, we attempted it. Jeremy manned the grill while Nathan cut and prepared the watermelon and the rest of us prepared the sides, plates and drinks. Nathan and Amy took turns feeding Jackson. We had ourselves a nice little feast: shrimp, chorizo, bratwurst, corn on the cob, chips, potato salad and watermelon. The meat and the corn were on the grill still cooking when the bottom fell out of the sky. I’m not talking about a little rain, or even a medium amount of rain. I’m talking about lightening, thunder and rain so heavy it flooded the canopy we were huddled under…plates in hands, hopelessly devouring the food Jeremy and Nathan were running out to the grill with towels draped over their heads to secure for us. I think I may have actually eaten almost an entire pound of shrimp. No exaggeration. I also helped myself to the chorizo, a brat, some corn, and a big helping of potato salad. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to get my hands clear of all the shrimp debris until I was able to get under a faucet with some soap, I had Alivia hand feed me cool ranch Doritos. She was a bit cheeky, feeding me mere morsels while saving the large chips for herself. I can’t blame her though, they are delicious. Once the rain had died down and we had cleaned everything up, we all went to Dairy Queen. I was way too full to eat ice cream, but everyone else seemed to be in Hog Heaven
The experiences I had over these past few days remind me of why Kate and I became friends in the first place, how we grew so close and why it was so easy to welcome Jeremy into my life with open arms – even before I knew he wanted to date Kate. There is easiness between us. We don’t have to try, we can just be. We don’t have to talk, we just automatically understand. Kate and I, by all superficial accounts, are polar opposites. She is a Florida girl, almost everything in her wardrobe is either pink, sea foam, or turquoise. I’m Carolina born and bred – I could live the rest of my life in the middle of nowhere riding a horse and reading a book and never once complain. Unless someone asked me to do those 2 things at the same time. But, we think the same and we love the same … without abandon and without the care of taking a risk. We both believe that without the risk, it’s probably not worth our time and definitely not worth repeating as a story later on! 

And that is where Jeremy fits so wonderfully into our puzzle, friend…husband…friend. He is identical to us in those respects. He is the biggest risk taker of us all. The man wielding metal tongs racing out in a lightning storm to rescue our barbeque.  The man who reminds the two of us, and anyone else in his life, to hold themselves accountable – not just to themselves, but to God. The man who wants to go skiing right before donating his kidney.  And there you have it … the man willing to lay his life down for those he loves…to allow the doctors at UNC to put him through test after test and then to trust them with his life knowing he will wake up in pain, with one less vital organ. And for what? For me? No, it’s more than just for me. It’s for God. The one being he loves more than anyone else in this world. That is the man whose kidney I now hold in my body. That is the friend I am leaving behind as I return to North Carolina. But there is solace in the fact that a piece of him remains, forever, with me. And a piece of my friend Kate who, without, I would have never gone on that first mission trip, therefore never meeting Jeremy, stays with me as well. Perhaps not in my body, but in my heart. And I think that’s as good a place as any.


  1. Amazingly beautiful Ashley!! I am so glad that you have such wonderful people in your life.

  2. Ok, I'm tearing up!! Beautifully articulated and you need to post more often!!!!

  3. Thank you for tying these ends together for us, Ashley. Your friendship with Kate and Jeremy is a testament to the power of God's love.