People say, “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
I can’t relate to that line. You see, I know exactly what I’d do if the unthinkable happened to Gunnar.
I would listen to every episode of Breathe In: A Cystic Fibrosis Podcast over and over to hear his voice.
I would try to read the military history tomes he likes to find the kinds of things that inspired him.
I would cry myself to sleep in Blinky’s fur.
I would also continue to go to work. I’d continue to write blogs. I would go for runs. I would obsess over Blink’s safety. I would do all the things I love.
If Gunnar has taught me anything (and he’s taught me a lot), it’s that you have to wade through the garbage parts of life every. day. His life as a CF patient is brutal – filled with physical pain, mental stress, and heartbreak. But if you know Gunnar, you know that part of his existence is just a drop in the bucket compared to his joy, his accomplishments, his laughter, his love. He’s showed me how to live my life, no matter what happens.
Social media has changed the way we grieve. When people post on Facebook or Instagram after someone dies, I’ve often seen them write “I don’t know what I’ll do without you.” I noticed in the immediate aftermath of Lea’s impossible passing, no one has really written that. There are countless love letters to Lea on social media right now, but I have yet to read “I don’t know what I’ll do without you.”
I think that’s a testament to the legacy Lea left behind.
I spent yesterday recoiled into my little niche in the CF community, texting and calling beloved friends all day. The horror of losing Lea was widely felt, but we talked about a lot more than that.
We talked about the places we can plaster Lea’s name so it will always be read. We discussed how to make programs Lea would have loved to be a part of. We planned for how we can weave Lea’s amazing boyfriend, Paul, into our fabric so he stays a part of the cystic fibrosis community forever. We talked about what we’re going to do on Lea’s next birthday, and the year after that, and all the years after that. We talked about how the fight to protect adult CF patients will be more invigorated than ever before. Our conversations were filled with intention and motivation. As Gunnar said, Lea was always in motion. We are, too.
Facetiming with the beautiful, heart-broken Tiffany Rich last night, she said, “It’s going to be okay.” I know that’s Lea.
Lea, more than anyone I know, cram-packed a fulfilled life into 28 short years. Though her death feels like an explosion, Lea taught all of us how to clear the smoke. She’s letting us keep the unwavering strength she left behind.
The CF community is in so much pain right now, but we are not lost. We know exactly where we’re going. We know what we are going to do for you, Lea. Thank you for guiding us through this, sweet girl.