You have been that map for me, my friend.

My friend Nancy is one of the most incredible women on the face of the planet. Never mind that she thinks I’m one of them as well. We’ve been friends for nearly 25 years and seen each other through horrible jobs, bad relationships, even worse nightclub and happy-hour scenes, even worse fashion trends, being single in our 30s (more her than me), getting married late(r), having kids even later, death, more relationship realities, raising children, divorce (mine, not hers), being single in (my) 40s, other less-than-perfect jobs, financial struggles, and now…brain surgery.

When she called me over a month ago to tell me about the aneurysm, I couldn’t believe it. My mind flashed back to a million scenes – many of which fall into the categories above, but so many more. How could this be? You, of all people?!? No!

Nancy’s brother Doug died of a brain aneurysm 10 years ago. Her mother has lived with 8 of them taking up residence in her head for many years…not flying on airplanes because of the pressurization, always wondering what might happen next. Not Nancy. It cannot be. Not after all she’s been through.

I’ve had a lot of time these past weeks to think about Nancy and the impact she’s had on my life. What I keep coming back to (besides her wicked sense of humor, the way she makes me laugh so hard I think I’m going to pee my pants, and her uncanny ability to see right into the truth of something and speak it out) is that she has always loved me for who she knew me to be capable of being…and she’s held me to that. No matter what ridiculous mistakes I’ve made, she’s loved me in the midst of them AND known that I had the capacity for more, for better. She never preached at me (OK…once or twice). She never judged (really…never). She never turned away from me. She endured. She stayed. She believed. She supported. She waited. She loved.

More than once I have realized that who I am today and what I believe about myself as a woman of incomparable worth and value is in large part because of her.

Nancy is a woman of incomparable worth and value. Her brain is amazing. Her heart is stunningly beautiful.

Thursday, March 12. Aneurysm removal day. Scull opened. 4 hour surgery. Prayers uttered. Tears shed. Coffee consumed. Stories told. So much laughter I thought I’d pee my pants. I sat at the hospital all day. I reminisced with her parents, her brothers, her friends, her husband, her kids. I bought Connor (11) a Hershey Bar. I bought Hannah (9) some orange Tic Tacs. None of us could bear the thought that this incomparable woman might not come back to us.

How would we laugh again? How would we love again? How would we understand our own incomparable worth and value without her?

But as I sat with this beautiful collection of people all I could see was Nancy. Her brain. Her heart. In our midst. Permeating the near-half of Starbucks we encamped in that day. She is so amazing that she somehow infiltrates and takes up residence even while on an operating table.

I’m crying as I type these words, deeply aware of her impact on me…and so many. It is overwhelming. She is overwhelming – in breathtaking ways. She is in my brain. She is in my heart.

And she is recovering.

A few hours after the surgery, as we all waited any news from the surgeon, we finally heard that she was awake. They asked her four questions, hoping for one accurate response:

Who are you?
What day is it?
Where are you?
Why are you here?

She answered all four – perfectly. Nancy’s brain is just fine.

And now so are our hearts. With those words, we were filled with hope – with her – with gratitude. Nancy’s heart remains – woven inexplicably, miraculously into each of ours’.

I’ll go back up to the hospital today with Emma and Abby. They’ve known Nancy since birth. They’ve watched the two of us laugh so hard at each other that they’ve had to just shake their heads and walk away. They’ve watched me worry and weep as I’ve had to face the possibility of losing her. They, too are better for Nancy: who I am because of her cannot not impact them.

4-5 more days in the hospital. 4-6 weeks of recovery. A long road ahead. And Nancy’s brain keeps working. What I’ve realized is that no matter what might have happened in that surgery, her heart can never die. It’s impossible. She’s unconquerable. Her incomparable worth and value remains because she is one of the most incredible women on the planet. You cannot quench that reality!!!

I can hardly wait to talk to you again, my friend; to sit with a glass of wine or a margarita, to laugh and cry together. Thanks for being so strong – then and now. Thanks for being my friend. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for being you; your brain and your heart – woven inexplicably, miraculously into mine. You have taught me to know that the map my brain desires already dwells within my heart. I love you.