By Renee Williams
“Everyone has a friend during each stage of life, but only lucky ones have the same friend in all stages of life.”
These days, Thea Barry is a stay at home mom and married to her best friend, Jeramy. The couple has three children: Nola, Olive, Adah and are now in the process of adopting their fourth child. Barry graduated in 2010 from Augusta State University with degrees in Sociology and Criminal Justice. Before becoming a stay at home mom, Barry worked in the social work field and says, “She loved it!”
Barry met her best friend, Rebekah Roberson, when the girls were just fourteen years old. Roberson has a B.A. from Augusta University where she concentrated on Theatre and Communications. Roberson has been married to her husband John for four and a half years and the couple lives in Edgefield, SC with their three dogs. Roberson serves on the Edgefield County Theatre Company Board as Children’s Program Director. She is also heavily involved in the Performing Arts, having performed with the Augusta Players, Aiken Community Playhouse, Le Chat Noir, Edgefield County Theatre Company and others.
As people age, friends are increasingly important to health and happiness-even more so than family relationships. In their own words, Barry and Roberson tell of a story of friendship that has remained a constant through all the seasons of their lives— high school, college, breakups, weddings, babies, loss, and now Rebekah’s cancer diagnosis.
Augusta Family: In your own words, can you tell me the story of your friendship with one another?
Thea Barry: Rebekah and I met when we were in high school drama class. Our friendship was instant and we became inseparable. We spent as much time as we could together. When we graduated from high school, we both went to separate colleges for a few years but reunited when Rebekah transferred back to Augusta State University, where I was attending. It was just like the good old days. Rebekah is one of those people that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve gone without speaking, we can pick up from wherever we left off in a moment. Our friendship has remained a constant through all the seasons of our lives— high school, college, breakups, weddings, babies, loss, and now Rebekah’s cancer diagnosis. She is truly one of my best friends.
Rebekah Roberson: Thea and I met when we were fourteen years old and have stayed close since then. We were both involved in drama class and attended the same youth group, and we just clicked. We’ve gone different directions through the years, whether with work, family, or other things, but we’ve always been able to stay connected and support each other. She’s the type that if I just dropped by her house, she would take the time to talk and listen and love…our friendship is like that – it just works.
Augusta Family: In life, sometimes extended family can often step up in times of trouble and have a great impact. What are your thoughts on the value of those we view as extended family?
Thea Barry: I’ve often said that I am so grateful that God builds families out of more than flesh and blood. I most certainly believe that friends are the family that we get to choose. Rebekah and her husband, John, are a part of our family. They have been a consistent source of encouragement and love to us. Whenever we’ve had a need, John and Rebekah have stepped up to the plate…When we’ve been sick, they’ve brought a meal. Rebekah loves on my babies as if they’re her own. When I lost my mom suddenly to cancer, Rebekah was the first one at my doorstep. Last week alone, just one day after her gamma knife radiation procedure, I came down with a pretty bad cold and Rebekah texted me to ask if she could do anything for me. For me! In the midst of her own recovery from an intense cancer treatment…Rebekah and her husband are truly our family…
Rebekah Roberson: I definitely believe your family is what you make it. I’ve been very blessed to have a wonderfully close immediate family that I talk to almost daily, but what I find so extremely special is the relationships in the community that have become a type of family to us as well. I honestly do not know what my husband or I would have done during my journey with cancer if not for the dedicated friends and neighbors that surrounded us in our time of need. People from our church, our town, really all over the area reached out to us and enveloped us with love and support. Our family definitely grew by leaps and bounds during that time, and each person that took part in that is very dear to us.
Augusta Family: It’s hard to comprehend and cope with a friend’s diagnosis of cancer. Thea, how have you managed to deal with the grief and uncertainty?
Thea Barry: On January 19th, my dear and precious friend Rebekah was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though this diagnosis has come out of left-field, Rebekah (and all those who love her) is prepared to fight to become healthy and whole again…I found out about Rebekah’s first cancer diagnosis just three months after suddenly losing my mom to pancreatic cancer. To say I was devastated was an understatement. First my mom and now my best friend has stage four breast cancer at the age of 27. None of it made sense or seemed fair. For me, I’m a “fixer.” When I see a problem, my immediate response is to do the best I can to fix the issue. The problem with that is that I don’t know how to cure cancer. I felt helpless. I spent a lot of time in prayer. Even now, with Rebekah’s third diagnosis, I remind myself that God is the author of all miracles. I think this is the most important thing a friend can do when faced with receiving the diagnosis of a loved one; just be there..no matter how messy or uncomfortable it gets, just show up…
The day after her diagnosis, Rebekah posted this on her Facebook wall: “For whatever divine reason, God has chosen to put this in my life’s path. He has seen this since before the beginning of time, since my birth, and every day of my life. This is not a surprise to Him. I take great comfort in that…I can choose anger, resentment and rebellion, or I can choose to walk alongside Him in joy, peace, and fight for the chance to continue glorifying Him for the rest of my life. I am praying now for the strength to choose the latter every day. This cancer does not define me…
Thea Barry: It is my hope that we, as a community, can come together to support Rebekah’s journey. Rebekah’s faith after such a devastating diagnosis is an encouragement to us all. Let’s give to be a blessing to Rebekah and her family during this time…Connect with Rebekah and Thea at www.gofundme.com/Rebekahsfight.
This article appears in the August 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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