I’ve thought about writing this blog post for several weeks now. Thought about what I would say about my sweet friend when she passed away. I had heard that she wasn’t doing well, that she was losing her long battle with cancer, and I knew I wanted to write a blog post and tell the world about her–to honor her after she would be gone, I just didn’t know when that would be . . . well, as much as I wish the time hadn’t come, that she could go on living with her husband and four sons, it has. My heart broke in two when I heard the news on Thursday evening. Not for her. (I am so glad she is free from the pain she was in.) But for her family. Even when loved ones get a “heads up”, as is usually the case with cancer, I’m sure it is still difficult beyond measure to lose them.

The first time I talked to Christie Perkins was over the phone. It was a couple of weeks before I was attending my first Storymakers writing conference in Provo, Utah in May 2015. Christie happens to live right across the street from my brother and she had heard that I was going to be driving four hours alone to the conference. Since she was going to be driving up alone as well, she got my number from my brother and reached out to ask if I’d like to drive up together. (And not only that, but she invited me to room with her and another writer, since I hadn’t secured a room at the hotel yet.) My brother told me: “You will LOVE Christie. You two will totally hit it off.”

He couldn’t have been more correct.

From the moment we got into her van–she agreed to drive, since I don’t do well driving in the rain or the dark–we never stopped talking. We talked about our families, our writing, her cancer, our childhoods. We laughed when I dripped mustard all over my white pants during dinner. And when we arrived at the hotel and I saw a ton of people standing in the lobby and my anxiety took over and I swore I couldn’t get out of the van . . . she spoke gently to me and told me how it was all going to be okay.

And you know what? It was. I had a wonderful experience at the conference. In fact, I enjoyed myself so much, I went back the following two years. Although she couldn’t come with me because of the return of her cancer, she was with me in spirit and texted me to make sure I was enjoying myself. That’s the kind of person Christie was. Always thinking of others. Always texting me to see how I was doing . . . when I should have been the one asking her. She came to my author presentations, my book signings, and my book launch (which was 45 minutes away from her) even though she wasn’t feeling all that great from the cancer. She was such a cheerleader. Such a positive influence in my life. I thought our friendship was something TRULY special.

But since she passed away on Thursday, I’ve been reading various posts by other people who knew her. I see now that my friendship with Christie wasn’t something unique or special. She was unique and special. And she made everyone feel the same way she made me feel–so loved. And while I only knew her for three short years, she has filled my life with so much optimism and laughter and has shown me how sweet true friendship can be. How lucky I was that I got to meet her. That I got to have just a slice of the wonderful Christie Perkins.

Her funeral is next weekend.

Next weekend also happens to be when the 2018 Storymakers conference is being held. I was registered to attend again this year, however, a couple of weeks ago I had a very strong feeling that I should not go. My mental health isn’t exactly in the best place right now, plus I didn’t want to make that four hour drive alone. So as painful as it was for me to cancel my registration . . . I did. And I’m so glad, as it will allow me to attend Christie’s funeral on a day I would have been thinking about her anyway–at the conference that brought her into my life exactly three years ago. I don’t believe much in coincidences. But I do believe in fate and I do believe I was blessed to know this beautiful person for a reason.

I will never forget Christie Perkins. I will never forget what I learned from her. I will forever strive to be the friend that she was to me and everyone else. May she rest in peace and may her family feel the love the world has for her today (and every day) forever after.