I am inspired and humbled by the lives of two phenomenal women. Their lives are examples of faith in the face of adversity and happiness and optimism during difficult circumstances.
Sonia Barros Herrera de Diaz
(Pictures are from 2006 trip to Chile.)
Sonia and I met in 1998. I was a missionary serving in her hometown of Quillota, Chile. She was an awesome ward member who was preparing to serve her own mission and she helped the missionaries quite a bit. We developed a friendship that has flourished over the past ten years.
When Sonia was a teenager, she met the missionaries and wanted nothing more than to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her parents, however, were steeped in the traditions of the dominant culture’s religion and would not allow her baptism. Sonia continued to attend church and study and learn until, after nearly dying of kidney failure, her parents allowed her to join the church. Sonia survived her illness by receiving one of her father’s kidneys. That kidney extended her life for a decade but has also since failed. Sonia is now a wife, a mother, and a dialysis patient awaiting the rare gift of a kidney donation.
Sonia and I always marvel at how our lives have been on a parallel course, although we live worlds apart. We served missions around the same time, married within two months of each other, both experienced infertility before being blessed with our miracle children…her’s through birth and mine through adoption. After giving birth to her son 2 months premature, the doctor’s required her to receive a tubal ligation because her body would not be able to endure another pregnancy. After her son’s birth, her father’s kidney failed and now she receives dialysis for four hours every other day. Although her life is uncertain and difficult, she is one of the happiest, most faithful people I have ever met. She has brightened my life through her friendship. She is a positive, happy person who radiates the light of Christ in her life. I look forward to spending the month of January with her in Chile. She has said that to have a fulfilling life and leave a legacy, one must 1) raise a child 2) write a book and 3) plant a tree. We plan to plant a tree together on my parent’s property this January.
We met the Mezas at church in 2002 when Blaine and I moved to Colorado. The four of us became fast friends. Tamara had just undergone brain surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor. After brain surgery, Tamara had to relearn to speak Spanish (she served a Spanish speaking mission in California and is married to a native Peruvian). She also had to relearn how to walk, cook, drive, and many other things that we take for granted. She was not given much time to live.
With faith and determination, Tamara charted her own course of recovery with alternative treatments. The doctor’s were fascinated by her choices and by her recovery. After receiving a clean bill of health, Tamara and David, who had experienced years of infertility, and Blaine and I all attended our first adoption meeting together at LDS Family Services. Blaine and I went on to adopt Bella, while Tamara and David experienced the miracle of a pregnancy. Little Isaac was born not long after Bella.
But without warning, Tamara’s brain hemorrhaged and she found herself in emergency surgery removing her second brain tumor. Somehow the doctors did not detect that it had been growing back at a steady pace. Once again, she spent a month in the hospital, and endured a long road to recovery, learning all of the basics of walking, talking, cooking, driving, and everything else all over again…only this time as a mother to a young baby. I was devastated that Tamara had to go through this and I kept imagining myself experiencing these same things with a brand new baby. It was heartbreaking to know that she couldn’t care for her young son the way I was caring for Bella. But every time I spoke with Tamara, she was positive, happy, and determined to beat the odds, even though once again, the doctor’s gave her a very short life expectancy.
I saw Tamara this past weekend and she told me that she just learned that she will have her third brain surgery on December 10th. This will be three brain surgeries in only five years. While I carelessly prepare for Christmas and vacations, Tamara is preparing to leave her family, to lose basic skills, and to fight again for her life.
I feel bad thinking about the trivial things that I worry about and the monumental things that I take for granted, while two of my very good friends face an uphill battle everyday of their lives, only asking God to give them more time with their husbands and young sons, not knowing if they will make it into their forties. And yet, every time I talk to or am with Sonia and Tamara, they lift me up, they remind me how beautiful life is, and they give me hope that I can be a better person. I am so blessed to have angels as friends and every new day that God gives me, I will give thanks for my life, my health, my children, my husband, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.