There is absolutely so much about the future that we are not privy to know before our future becomes our present. Really, from the moment our heads hit the pillow each night to the moment our feet touch down on the floor when we rise, we simply do not know with any degree of certainty what will come to pass, save for one inevitability. We know there will be a final moment, the moment when we will die.
For Allison Renee Lee Buehler, that moment came last week, at just 31 years of age. You may have seen the signs on local businesses and schools during her battle against the most formidable of foes, cancer, the signs that simply said, “Allison Strong.”
If you didn’t know her, you really missed something because she showed an almost warrior-like mentality in facing daunting medical adversity, really, as much as anyone I’ve ever known. I know during her three years of constant medical treatments and all the doctors and the hospital that there must have been down moments, thoughts of the inevitability as to the outcome, but to so many others who knew her, those thoughts never seemed to manifest themselves in how she lived her final thousand days.
To those who were really Powerball-winner lucky enough to know her, that narrow thousand-day window of time provided a good look at one of life’s great question-and-answer sessions, one that transcends anything taught in any classroom anywhere. As for the questions, they are as follows. When faced with real-life-and-death circumstances where nothing short of life’s highest and longest “Hail Mary” pass is needed, how do you measure up? How do you defeat self-pity? How do you demonstrate grace in the face of tribulation? How do you conjure the grit needed to combat the longest of odds? How do you suppress the fears that surely are your constant thought companions and show such gratitude to those who pray for you?
And, the answers in Allison’s case were embodied in the words she spoke to my friends, her father, Jim, and mother, Diane, often. My friends’ beautiful daughter would say, “I don’t have time for this. I’m way too busy. I’m a wife. I’m a mother. I’m a teacher.”
And, that’s just how she approached cancer. When not being treated, poked and prodded, she was indeed raising a son, Logan, helping her husband, Brandon, keep the house and teaching her young charges at the Golden Bridge Academy.
There were several rosary sessions at her and her parents’ alma mater, Lima Central Catholic. After the many who gathered finished with five rosary decades’ worth of trying to alter the course of what came to pass last week, Allison always had the last word. She would rise and thank everyone for coming and speak, optimistically, of the current phase of her treatments. Her tone was positive, even during times when her voice was not, but she spoke of her illness, of her family and of hope. When I heard her speak, I didn’t hear “woe-is-me” moments. Instead, I heard words bereft of self-pity.
The last time I saw up close the grace that Allison possessed was toward the end of the last summer she would ever know when I heard her perform her duties as maid of honor to Jessie Bresson at Jessie and Ryan Smith’s reception. Allison gave her speech and spoke of her grade school-beginning friendship with Jessie and her eventual friendship with Jessie’s husband, Ryan Smith, someone she admitted not liking very much upon meeting him for the first time in high school.
Even though her plate was so full with her own challenges, challenges that made her voice elevate a couple of octaves because of her treatments, she took that mic and delivered both a wonderful testimonial to friendship and a fervent hope that her two friends would have a long and loving life together.
It was, I thought, a remarkable speech, given the circumstances, the best I’ve ever heard, with the perfect blend of humor and sentiment for two friends that she held so very dear.
Long before she got sick, I used to call her “Ally.” She looked at me one day and asked why I called her that, since no one else did. I told her that it was because she somehow seemed different to me than other Allisons I’ve known, and with 32 years worth of teaching, believe me, I’ve known several.
Well, she was different and never was that proved more eloquently than in her final thousand days.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “In the end it’s not the years in your life that count. Rather, it’s the life in your years.” Ally embodied that, I believe, no more so than when she faced, undaunted, the longest of odds. I will miss her. And, if you knew her, you will miss her too. While sickness may have taken her body, it absolutely never took her spirit. Today, it is my fervent belief that she wears wings.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.