" Mum, when I grow up I want to be just like Julie."
Bethany 2010

BE Remembered

This week, another beautiful soul flew from the confines of her cancer-ridden body and soared into the arms of her Beloved Saviour. She entered her rest after years of struggle and finally began the joy of new life in her eternal Home.

Julie Elizabeth Leitch was a dear friend to our Bethany in her days of trial and became a true friend to me – a refreshing breeze God used to help usher in a new season of healing.

She will be remembered.

Julie lived on the edge of our world, known to us only through mutual friends until 2010 when she entered our lives with a big, bright bang! She too was living with cancer and when she heard of Bethany’s situation she asked for permission to come for a visit.

This first visit turned into many more and Bethany loved her times with Julie and came to adore her new friend and highly respect her.

“Mum when I grow up, I want to be just like Julie.”

They were kindred spirits indeed – both larger than life and chosen, it seems, for a similar life journey and testimony. When Julie was present in our home, we could not help but feel the life, love and joy (and increased volume) that flowed freely from her. The death sentences that hung over both their lives seemed totally defeated and forgotten in the light of Julie.

I heard many giggles coming from Bethany’s room whenever Julie was visiting. They chatted about the hard stuff while at the same time painted their nails, put on some lippy, placed bows on their bald heads and above all, took delight in swapping their wigs and trying out different, crazy styles with them.

Julie captured Beth’s attention and heart as she shared stories of her hilarious antics with the radiologists and the different ways she would conspire to make the medical staff laugh. Julie delighted in lightening the load for us and making fun of the cancer. We always felt uplifted after her visits and the room felt empty when she left.

How empty her home must feel and our love and prayers continue to flow for her dear family whose hearts must feel bereft without her presence right now.

As far as I could see, Julie never considered herself a victim of cancer and helped Bethy to feel the same. Rather than letting the cancer use them, they used the cancer to bring glory to God and bless people. Julie not only taught Bethy to laugh through severe trials, she reinforced her faith and strengthened it like no one else could. Apart from other children in the hospital, Julie was the only other person Bethy knew at the time who could relate to her and know what she was going through. This was a priceless gift and I am forever grateful for all Julie poured on our daughter who became precious to her.

They formed a bond that went beyond cancer. You see, Julie got it! She understood her purpose in life. She understood the big picture. She lived beyond herself and exemplified the Christ- life in a powerful way that gave Bethany a tangible example to follow as she too suffered in her body. It was a gift I could not give my daughter. It was a gift Julie’s beloved daughters could not give to her. It was unique and it was a God-ordained mutual blessing to them both, of that I am certain.

The two of them used to talk quite openly about the time they would be freed of their cancer. They knew without a shadow of a doubt that their God could heal them in an instant and they boldly asked Him to do just that. But then they would laugh and say, “Well if He says no then it is because He needs up us there. We are fun, party girls and He might need us to liven things up for Him!”

In the year after Bethany went Home, Julie would often text me to check up on how I was traveling.  We would often go for a long power-walk and talk together in those early days of grief.  God seemed to bring her along just at the right time when I was falling into despair, the trauma and heartbreak too hard to bear alone.

Julie would cheer me up – reminding me of God’s promises and was not afraid, like some, to fondly chat away about my girl. It became more obvious to me that they really did share some sacred moments in that room and that they loved each other deeply.

One day, I texted Julie to say, “I’m in need of a good Julie laugh – can we go for a walk today?” She replied straight away and came over. But just as she arrived, it began to team with rain. She laughed and dared me to go out anyway. We were absolutely drenched within a minute and laughed and laughed as rain pelted us hard in the face all along the way. The wind swept up our useless umbrellas and we just kept laughing in the face of this storm. She was such good medicine for my soul.

Oh yes, she will be remembered.

The next day I received an amusing message from her about how her wet shoes were stinking out her entire house – and we laughed again.

Walking with Julie lasted for a sweet season. In the last days of her illness, Julie could not walk well. She became fragile and during my last visit with her, I massaged those dear legs that had walked many miles with me and were now failing her.

“Look at the poor darlings. They are just like little chicken legs the poor things!”

Right until the end I saw something in Julie I desperately wanted. The ability to truly see and grasp truth, even through the darkness of suffering and death. She saw things with the eyes of Jesus and sought to hold fast to His perspective – while continuing to be real and laugh about it all!

Julie loved to share with people how much Bethany’s life and legacy meant to her. Right until the end she was thrilled with me to see the glimpses of the beauty the Lord is bringing from ashes of our story. She would often encourage me that God has ALL under control and it will ALL be good! I know she believed these promises for herself and lived them out fully. What an incredible legacy she has left for those of us left to still to travail the valley of the shadow of death.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise and call her blessed; her husband also praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works be praised at the city gate. Proverbs 31:25-31

My heart feels Julie’s loss keenly, but this precious woman has made a unique and indelible mark. Our personal encounter with this ‘one-in-a-million’ woman is just one of many that I look forward to hearing about across eternity. I know this big-hearted, crazy, loveable woman made her mark on countless hearts and will always be remembered for so many beautiful things. It will take eternity to count them all!

Like Bethany, Julie will be remembered as one who poured out her life unto death for her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. She lived out the BE Blessings principle in sickness and in health. She was the Light of Christ in our dark world and will shine forever.  Like Mary of Bethany, another kindred spirit, I believe these words ring out in her honor…

“Throughout the world what this woman has done will be remembered and discussed.” (Jesus, Matthew 26:13)

In coming days you will hear many say, “This woman was an inspiration.” But what does that mean? What has Julie Leitch inspired us to do? What has she inspired us to BE? I think this one little word sums it up… love.

Julie has inspired us to love Jesus more. To love people more, especially those in need. She has helped us to love ourselves more and to love the life God has given us. Because of Julie, we are inspired to live lightly and to love laughter.

Her last conversation with me in person included her heart felt desire to go on ministering to her students at Plenty Valley Christian College. In spite of her pain and desire to be with the Lord, she wanted to continue to help others to come to know Him – especially young people in the midst of their life struggles.

Julie had discovered ‘the secret’ and wanted the world to know! I am confident that this part of her legacy will live on in the lives of the many students she has already influenced for eternity. Like Bethany and countless other saints who have gone before her, the enemy called ‘death’ cannot possibly stop the life-giving legacy of those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ in life and in death.

‘Death ‘has been swallowed up in victory and a new chapter in Julie’s life is just beginning! (Isaiah 25:8-9) She will be forever remembered by the Lord.

I will treasure the last words I received from her, just days prior to her passing, which simply said, “Thanks my dear friend.” (With loads of emoji love hearts to finish off what would be her final text message to me.)

I don’t know if she really had much to thank me for compared to what she gave me. Oh Julie, how I will miss you until we meet again. You will always be remembered and cherished in my heart of hearts.

Your life and the love you gave us challenges me to be remembered for all the right, eternal things that matter. Thanks my dear friend!

Through my tears, as I sit and try to recall our precious shared memories, I think I can hear the echo of Julie’s words to Bethany those years ago…

“Let the party begin!”

Oh you still make me laugh Jules!  Just weeks ago you promised me that you would give my Bethy a huge hug from her mummy and I am sure you have already fulfilled that promise.

“She will probably be angry at me for making her wait so long! I told her I would be following close behind, not nearly five years later!”

I don’t think she will be angry dear one but absolutely delighted to be with you again. I can imagine you hugging, jumping up and down, running and dancing together. I imagine Jesus swinging you both around and together you are throwing your heads back and laughing – yes, definitely laughing.