I remember my 21st birthday. Excitement filled my being as I welcomed the induction into adulthood, or more specifically womanhood. I wanted to conquer the world. My parents and my childhood cardiologist had in depth discussions with me about life. They advised me that along with the freedom of “adulthood” came the responsibility of making good choices for my physical and mental wellbeing. Taking ownership of my body was stressed. Verily, the excitement of turning 21 waned. It was at that moment I conceptualized the intensity of getting intimately acquainted with the most intricate parts of myself while managing a chronic illness. It was the genesis of examining my expectations in relation to my reality. I’ve experienced many challenges in life as a result of chronic illness, yet the love and support surrounding me have kept me grounded and inspired. My parents and I had a village. There are so many who poured into me throughout my life.
On November 20, 2021, I celebrated my 21st anniversary of my second open heart surgery. Joyfully, my heart and I reached another pinnacle. After all we’ve gone through, we endure. I honor every beat and I’m so thankful to exist. Every day I fight to live and thrive while doing so. Some battles are silent while others can be seen through the windows of my eyes and felt in the occasional heaviness of my spirit. Many of the same emotions that visited me on my 21st birthday surfaced again on this 21st anniversary. Uncertainty arrived and asked to have a seat. Fear of the unknown attempted to lure me into its snare. Hope whispered that I will persevere through anything. Love took me by the hand and promised to keep me covered. Gratitude entered my spirit and I said thank you for my testimony.
In my 21st year of life, my childhood cardiologist urged me “to leave my mark in the world.” During our final conversation a few months prior to his death he said “when you came to me as a young girl, I promised your lovely parents I would be at your wedding. I kept that promise. You are supposed to be here kiddo. The world will know Teresa Wrong, right?” I smile every time I think of that exchange. Our conversation was telling and I carry those words with me everywhere I go. Even if the “world” never “knows” me, I certainly gave the world my all.
Currently, there are cardiac processes occurring in my body and eventually I will undergo another open-heart surgery. This condition is truly lifelong, yet as long as I have life, I will proceed with courage, grace and compassion. Reconciling my intentional existence after so many have perished compels me to remain steadfast knowing my life has never really been about me. Accepting my divine assignment has liberated me in ways that cannot be elucidated. I live my life as the vessel for which I have been designed. Walking in that truth is soul stirring.
As I reflect on this 21st anniversary, I give thanks to my creator whom I call God. My life is truly a blessing. I remember the words of wisdom from my parents reminding me that I will overcome any obstacle that attempts to decimate me. Purpose thrusts me forward when I am too much of a mess to see outside my human composition. Through it all I retain that “mustard seed faith.” My mother’s earthly absence is a harsh reminder that life changes in an instant and someday I, too, will be a memory. It is also a confirmation that those we love exist within us and are personified through our living and giving.
In 21 years, I’ve grown exponentially. Wisdom befriended me. My lessons are reflective of my life experience. I appreciate joy because I am fully acquainted with pain. I revel in passion because I live with such intensity. I know how to sound my voice because many have tried to silence it. I have love to sharebecause I’ve been loved so fiercely. To anyone who has poured into me and my life, on this 21st anniversary, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. To my husband that travels this winding path with me, I am so very grateful for you. To my mommy, I honor you in my living and I miss you every single day. To my daddy, your strength and wisdom was and continues to be my saving grace. To my sister, family, friends and communities, you’ve enriched my life immensely.
Please remember that your heart matters, your life matters and you have a divine purpose. Stay hopeful and remember my words that will read on my epitaph………