I honestly can’t remember the first time I met Erica. Seriously. It’s only because we were so young when we first met. I was maybe five years old, she a year older. We were on the same softball team, and her dad taught me and many others how to play the sport. The CATS, that was our team name. What I do remember ever since I’ve known Erica, is her smile and laugh. She was always the pillar of optimism and fun, and an even better athlete. As we grew up, she may have gotten older, but she never changed. Everyone that ever met Erica feels the same way. Go ahead, ask them. There was just something about her. We were cheerleaders together and spent many weekends traveling to sporting events. After high school, I didn’t hear much about her only because I moved away. It happened with almost everyone I knew growing up, until the invention of the internet and then Facebook.
She graduated high school in 1992. She then went on to study and graduate from Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA. She married her love Kendrell, and has two boys – one who will graduate high school this year and the youngest will start kindergarten. She became a teacher and continued to share her happiness. For the past twenty years, she lived her life, as we all do.
She was one of those that were slow to get on Facebook, this past January to be exact. She turned 38 on May 5th. I reconnected with her soon after. See, Erica was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her treatment was complicated due to her living with Lupus. She was only able to receive one round of chemotherapy. But, as with some treatment, more complications arose. She developed a blood clot in her leg and treatment had to cease. She remained in the hospital where they put stints in both of her kidneys, drained fluid out of her abdomen. Her blood levels were so low that she required blood transfusions. The community came to her aid. They held blood drives, several in fact, to give her what she required. Hoping that it would all make her better, she was scheduled to be transferred to MD Anderson by the end of the month although her family was fighting to get her there sooner. As her dear friend Christy put it, sometimes all we get is 38 years. She held on as long as she could, but those that loved her most knew that when there was no laughter left, that her time come was coming to an end.
Erica passed away last week. Tomorrow, she is being laid to rest. When you read her Facebook page, it’s filled with the same sentiments that I mention above:
“Your smile and laughter will be truly missed!!!”
“I will never forge that big smile and loving personality!!!!!! I love you friend!!!!!”
“Thanks for putting a smile on my son’s face everyday at school. We will truly miss you!!! You were such a loving person.”
“Oh how I will miss my friend Erica!!! Our hearts will always be filled with love and great memories that we shared together.”
“Words can not express how I feel right now. I’ve been crying and smiling all day. Crying bcuz I will miss my friend Erica so very much! But as I sit and think about her I can’t help but to smile. She has touched so many with her energetic personality and bright smile. I love you dearly Erica and will miss u so very much.”
“I will always cherish the time I’ve spent with you. Such a beautiful and loving person. I will miss you, your smile, and your laugh.”
“One of the hardest parts of life is saying goodbye to a dear friend. Erica you were like a ray of sunlight to all the lives you touched..always supportive and willing to assist.”
The time we have is precious. Erica lived the best she knew how, by giving laughter and love to everyone she came in contact with. Nothing hurts more than losing someone who deserves to have everything, including living a long life. As I’ve said before, cancer knows no prejudice. It doesn’t care if you’re a man or a woman, a grown up or a child, black or white, or even if you are an amazing person who’s done nothing more laugh and love.
So my wish for all of you this weekend is to take time to be thankful. Whatever your beliefs, we are all here on borrowed time, and it’s what we make of it that matters. Nothing else. Be kind to one another, volunteer, give blood, donate goods. And if you can’t think of anything to do for others, simply smile, because it does in fact go a long way.
Erica Joseph-Rapp (May 5, 1974 – July 28, 2012)
A wife, mother, daughter, sister, and dear friend.