“No, it’s not true.” I say pushing away my mother’s embrace. This has to be a dream. I run to my room and close the door. “God make this a dream.” But reality hits, sending me to my knees. “Do not do this, God.”
I curse God. I pray for Him to heal her, to fix her, to make things the way they were. “Let her turn eighteen. Let her graduate. How dare you.” I damn Him and beg for a miracle.
“Do not go gentle.” I wordlessly demand
Please do not go.
Shelby Klug and I officially met August 14, 2012. It was Lancer Kick off Day at Orange Lutheran for incoming freshmen only. We knew about each other: in fact, she had quite the reputation. She and my brother had gone to the same school, Fairmont, Anaheim Hills, the school I attended until the first grade. When he was in eighth grade, my brother had the opportunity to be in the school play “Grease.” Shelby had that same opportunity as a seventh grader that year. As fate had it, Gordon played “Putzie” and Shelby played “Jan,” Putzie’s love interest. Every day, when my mother and I would pick him up from drama class, he would rant and rave about this “weird girl, Shelby.” From his description she was mean, bossy, and weird, he said she would horse bite him for no reason. They were sworn enemies that year.
Upon finding out that I would be attending Orange Lutheran, my brother warned and begged me not to talk to her, knowing she too would be a freshman at OLu. My response was “Haha, don’t worry I won’t. But what if we became best friends?” At this he would either smack me or stare me down with a look that could kill.
But, that day I had been alone in a swarm of unfamiliar faces. They all seemed to know one another. I unsuccessfully scanned the crowd for Bryce Lagsdon, the only other person from my middle school. I stopped at a single familiar face in the mass. It had short blonde hair and large brown eyes. The face belonged to that “weird girl, Shelby”; she smiled, waved, and headed towards me. She also was alone in the horde of new faces.
Shelby knew as many people as I did in this foreign place. In short, Shelby and I knew each other and maybe one other person. Because of this we stuck together, and over the next few weeks we found we had more in common than just my brother. Not only were we severely awkward, but also we had similar personalities. We shared the same sense of humor and the same love for music.
As time went on, we made other friends and our own friendship continued to grow. The ordinary days were made extraordinary and life became an adventure. About two weeks into high school we were talking and joking around in front of one of our classes. She said something that prompted me to silence her, already feeling too comfortable I did what I would do to my brother. He called it “giving a blessing,” I put my hand at the top of her forehead and slid it down the front of her face, somewhat mimicking a priest’s blessing. Caught off guard, her mouth was slightly open and instead of my hand sliding over it, it slid into her mouth. Horrified, I yanked my hand out of her mouth and we stared at each other in disbelief. There was thirty seconds of silence and a Did that really just happen? look shared between us, and then she started to laugh. Relieved, I started laughing too. Pretty soon my ribs started to ache and her face was bright red. When my body finally stopped shaking, I looked at her and said, “We will never speak of this to anyone.”
“Speak of what?” She impishly replied.
Late September of our freshman year, Shelby told me she had Cystic Fibrosis. I did not know what that was, and, when she tried explaining, I could not understand. She looked completely normal. The only thing that indicated her illness was her cough, but I had gotten used to that. I stopped asking if she were okay after every fit. I would only say something after the bad ones. It would take nearly four months for me to really know what Cystic Fibrosis, or CF was. It would take me a year to come close to comprehending its power. That year became three years of adventures, hospital visits, fundraisers, and speeches. Years made up of breathing treatments, extraordinary days, hope, and cannots. I knew what the disease was, I knew what it did, and I knew what it could do. But I could not fathom the colossal impact it would have on my own life.
I wish I could understand it now. Fear comes in lapping waves, and I cannot fight the undertow of desperation. My face burns with the dripping salt.
The dreary sky cast the earth in gray, and the ocean was a dark, churning mass. Shelby and I exchanged giddy smiles and raced towards the heaping foam. We squealed and shivered at the blinding cold and willed ourselves to keep moving. I could not stand it for very long and stayed waist deep.
Shelby, on the other hand, kept wading until the water was up to her chest. She turned her back to the horizon and shouted at me, “Don’t be a pansy! It’s not even that cold!”
I laughed and took a step, and a violent shiver ran down my back. I figured I would stay put.
Just then, a bud of a wave caught my eye. It swelled and rolled towards an oblivious Shelby.
“Shelby, behind you!” I cried.
She turned around to see that she was past the point of no return. She yelled with arms spread wide, “Jesus, take the wheel!”
The wave crashed on top of her. It took a few seconds for her to pop up out of the swirling mess, clearly discombobulated.
“Buddy, your top!” I laughed.
Frantically, she searched for her swimsuit. Jesus had taken more than the wheel.
Shelby and I would go to the beach together religiously. We would try to go when her numbers were down, or if she had a doctor’s appointment coming up. She coughed more at the beach. The saline air brought the junk towards the top of her lungs, and she would cough it out. Because of this, she did not like going to the beach with many other people.
In the morning, I would pick up an iced chai tea latte with spice for her and an iced coffee for me. I would pick her up and from her house we would head to Corona Del Mar, either rocking out or talking about life. After a few hours of swimming and getting pitted by waves, we would drive over to Fashion Island and feast on Stone Oven BBQ chicken sandwiches. I would take her home afterwards so she could take her meds and do her breathing treatments.
Thinking hurts and my brain festers. Reality has sucked the sweet marrow of adolescent hope dry. Anger gnaws on the bones of my memories.
In August, the summer before our junior year, I joined her family on a trip to Encinitas. They had rented a beach house; it was a last hurrah for her brother, who was leaving for college. We swam in the ocean, rented surfboards, went to the bay and rented a boat, went tubing, and the sun tanned our skin and bleached our hair, turning us into golden goddesses. It was the best week of my life.
On our first evening there, Shelby and I insisted on swimming and checking out the waves behind the house. We later came to find out the area behind the beach house was a popular surfer destination. That evening though, there was only two or three surfers out, a fair distance from us. The waves had not been very big, so we relaxed and gazed around us, taking in the beauty of the setting sky and golden water. Suddenly a wave started to form a ways out, we both knew it would be fairly large, and we swam towards it. As the wave formed a surfer decided to catch it. That surfer began to aim towards us at rapid speed. We panicked and started darting every which way in an effort to avoid getting hit. Within seconds a wave crashed on top of us, hurtling us into one another with a loud “smack.” We rolled with the tide for what seemed like forever. Finally, I found the surface and gasped for air. I tried standing but immediately fell over from dizziness. My side felt like a bowling ball had been dropped on it. I looked around for Shelby and found her staggering her way to shore. I looked out at the ocean and made eye contact with the surfer, who was clearly amused. In our frenzy we had failed to notice he had veered off to avoid us.
On the third night in Encinitas, I was in the shower and getting ready for bed. Everyone in the house was asleep. Shelby had already showered and was in bed, probably passed out since we had surfed all day. I finished and found my way through the dark hallway to our room, which was also pitch black. I put my dop-kit away next to my bed and made my way over to crawl in. All of a sudden an obscure figure jumped out of my bed and yelled, “AHHHH!” I screamed and backed up in an effort to get away, but in doing so I tripped over my own feet and fell. Panicked, I tried to get up but could not see anything; instead I heard a bubbling of mischievous laughter from my bed. I crawled towards what I thought was the door and felt for a light switch. I found it and click it on, only to see Shelby sitting on my bed, her face red with tears running down her cheeks. I kicked her out to her own bed and crawled into mine. My heart still felt like it would run out of my chest.
The beach did not always keep her healthy though. She found herself in the hospital at least six times during the school year. After these, she would be sent back to the world with a PICC line that she hid under long sleeves. She would have this for up to three weeks, sometimes longer.
She usually did not like to have visitors when she was in the hospital. She said she did not want anyone to see her not having showered, not wearing makeup, and wearing sweats. She did not want people to see the hospital room she called her own for weeks on end. She did not want them to see the pill bottles lined up next to her breathing treatments. She did not want them to see the IV she was hooked up to or hear the Seinfeld episodes playing in the background.
I bribed her with Porky’s Pizza and an iced chai tea latte with spice from her favorite place. I would walk into a Green Day dance party, except she would be sitting on her bed doing homework instead of dancing.
She landed in the hospital five days into her senior year. A bronchoscope was scheduled, and before that, she had surgery for her PICC line. The PICC line had stopped working the night she got it, and she had to have another surgery to get it fixed.
Two days later she had the bronchoscope.
A few days after, her numbers went down substantially.
Within two more days she ran a fever of 105 and could not move. She was not getting enough oxygen to her body. The doctors decided to hook her up to oxygen and hoped to see progress.
The first day she still ran a fever, but, by day two, it was gone. On day three and four she felt more sick and more tired. She could barely move her arms. On day six of her being on oxygen, September 10, I came to visit with an iced chai.
The nurse brought Mrs. Klug and me to the threshold of her room. First I saw my adoptive father asleep in a chair. Then, I saw her head peep into the doorway; a goofy grin devoured her porcelain face. Mr. Klug opened his weary eyes and got up to embrace me in a bear hug. He and Mrs. Klug left me with my sister, and I took my place beside the white linen bed.
Machines surrounded her in a constant hum, and her body was wrapped in tubes. They snaked up and down her arms, through her nose and around her ears.
“How are you doing, bud?” I asked.
“I’m better today,” She said.
“What happened? Tell me everything.” I said.
She did. From the moment she walked in. To her parents not being there when she was told she had to stay. How scared she was. She told me about her dad bringing her McDonalds after her PICC line surgery. She told me about the bad days when she was too exhausted to move. How angry she was and how stressed she was. How she worried about college apps and how she did not understand theology or the math homework. She told me about her parents and her Free People shopping cart. We talked about homecoming. She told me everything.
On the wall next to her bed there was a chart. It had ten faces. The first face was a smiley face, as the numbers grew the faces became sadder- ten being the saddest. The chart was a pain monitor.
“Have you ever been a ten?” I asked.
“No, I haven’t gone above a seven. Ten is the worst pain imaginable.”
“When did you feel the seven?”
“A while ago. I was in so much pain after one of my surgeries. I couldn’t breathe, it was really scary.”
“Why didn’t you say eight or nine if it hurt that much?” I asked.
“Because those are for when you can’t handle it.”
“How is school?” she asked earnestly.
“It’s fine, really boring. Theology sucks without you. I’m all alone!”
I told her she was not missing anything, and she should not be worried about her grades. She would get caught up soon, and I would keep sending her theology and psychology work.
“How are you? How was dropping off Gordon?” she asked from her hospital bed.
I thought about that weekend. I had seen his back as he walked down the steps, as the barracks took him. I was too full to swallow it down and my voice stumbled.
“You know he’s going to miss you. It’s going to be okay, Madd. It gets better, I promise.” She said, taking out the tubes that ran through her nose, connecting to an oxygen machine.
After about a minute, one of the humming machines started to beep. She rolled her eyes and flipped a switch, cutting the beeping short.
“This thing drives me crazy,” she said while flinging the tubes around. “It beeps like that constantly. It’s like R2D2 singing Bohemian Rhapsody!”
At this I laughed, and we both broke out into Queen a Wembly. She played air drums while I played piano. At the best part we took up our air guitars and vehemently played till the end.
The alarm went off again, and with a sigh she put the tubes back in her nose. Six days later she was back at school. She left not feeling well at lunch. She was at school for two days.
On Friday September 18, she sent me a picture of her in the hospital. She had a lung collapse and pneumonia.
September 21 is the first day of Homecoming Week. It is “Merica Monday,” my favorite day. I’m wearing a red romper and blue headband. I slept through my alarm and woke up an hour late, which instantly put me in a Monday Mood. During second period, I was told I was the ceramic student of the month, and my Monday Blues subsided. I had a riding lesson at 5:00 I needed to come home and change for.
I walk through the door and the smell of pot roast greets my nose.
“I’m home!” I yell with a smile.
I walk into the kitchen. My mother is cutting vegetables by the sink. The gray light of the sky illuminates the top of her focused head.
“Hey, Merm. Smells good.”
She looks up. Her face is swollen. Her eyes are red. She looks at me and I see something breaking.
My stomach drops. I wonder if grandma died.
“Mrs. Klug called today. Shelby isn’t doing well…the doctors put her in an induced coma to give her lungs time to heal…. but her kidneys are failing. Honey, they don’t think she’s going to make it…Mrs. Klug wanted me to tell you…that… Shelby loves you.”
Her voice and her face crumple. I shatter.
 At that moment one of my favorite poems came to mind. “Do Not go Gentle into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas.
 Shelby and I were caught in a moment of chaos, a moment in the frenzy that is life. Much like how in everyday life we get so caught up in what will happen. We do not think about what is actually happening. We expect to have moments, but we fail to see them when they are in front of us. By the time you realize what was there, it is gone.
 Klug, Shelby. “Pipeline to a Cure” Speech. I had the privilege of attending many fundraisers with Shelby. She spoke at quite a few, and is an extremely talented speaker and speechwriter. She was asked to be the Keynote speaker at Pipeline to a Cure 2014, where she spoke in front of almost 700 people. She blew the crowd away and was asked to be the Keynote speaker for the 2015 Pipeline to a Cure. Again, she was amazing and there was not a dry eye in the audience. At the end of her speech, she told everyone what Cystic Fibrosis is. One of those descriptions went like this, “It is your best friend eating an entire pizza with you while you’re in the hospital because you don’t want to be alone.” Yes, we did eat an entire pizza. With garlic knots. And we felt good about it.
 Klug, Shelby. “Pipeline to a Cure” Speech. In her Pipeline to a Cure 2015 speech, Shelby said when defining Cystic Fibrosis, “It’s hearing people complain about the Mondays when you’re just thankful for every Monday you get”.
 At the time I had recently learned my grandmother, who has dementia and other health complications, was in hospice. A week later she was out of hospice and eating Baskin Robins. She has been going in and out ever since. It is difficult to understand why someone who has lived their life still has the ability to outlive someone who has barely started their own. Hope does not manifest itself in the elderly. It manifests itself in the young, because it is meant to be seen for the long run. This leads me to the fact that many people do not understand the privilege of wrinkles, the scars of life written on their skin. They try to get rid of them with Botox and other expensive surgeries, but they should be proud of them. They are almost like little diplomas or awards for each year you have been alive. Not everyone gets to die of old age. So, to die with wrinkles is a beautiful thing.