In new book, a mother publishes the story her beloved daughter wanted to tell
MANSON — Emily Markert was only a senior in high school when her lungs began to fail.
Over two lung transplants and multiple complications, her faith and positivity inspired others around her, prompting her and her close friend to write a book.
“Life Lessons: The Emily Markert Story” is now complete. Although she passed away in 2014 and never got to see the finished product, she would be happy others are learning from what she went through, according to Abby Schmitz, her friend and running partner.
Emily Markert was told by a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, that her reaction to her struggles was unusual, Schmitz said.
“(He told her) not all patients respond the way you do with such inspiration, and he said you should really write a book about it,” Schmitz said. “He said if you did, I would hand it out to patients here, because I want patients to look at things the way you do.”
Emily Markert and Schmitz sat down together to compile her writings over the years, as well as relying on journals kept by her mother, Liz Markert.
“Periodically over Emily’s last five years she started taking notes, writing down thoughts,” Liz Markert said, “and it wasn’t until the last part of her life, the six months prior before she passed, that she really started working hard on it with Abby.”
Liz Markert’s journals had been in a box in a closet for years, she said, and were “elementary writing” — not polished for others to read.
“We never looked at my journals. We never looked back, we always looked forward. So these journals weren’t even looked at until the two girls opened them up at the table,” Liz Markert said.
It was surprising “how identical some of our thoughts were, and our heartaches, and our fears,” she said. “They matched up.”
Running and cross-country are woven through Emily Markert’s story. The book starts with a race between her and her younger sister–but something was wrong when she found herself short of breath, unable to keep up.
One doctor told her the pain she felt was caused by heartburn, and just sent her home with stomach pills. Before long, she was having scans done to her lungs, which sounded to a doctor like they had Rice Krispies inside of them.
Eventually she needed a transplant of two lung lobes from Liz Markert’s brothers, Don and Larry Fitzgerald. Waiting for a regular organ donation may have taken so long, she wouldn’t have lived to see it.
Working on the book now brought back memories and opened up new perspectives, Schmitz said.
“When she first became ill she was in high school. There were some things I’d forgotten, like just how much school she missed,” she said. “We visited Emily often in the hospital, but to realize just all the time she spent there?
“Now that I am a mom, I think of it from Liz’s perspective,” she added. “Whereas being Emily’s friend I only thought of it as Emily. Now as a mom, I give so much credit to Liz. I can’t imagine being in a hospital with such a sick daughter, not having answers.”
Emily Markert always prayed, and always kept her faith, her mother said.
“The purpose of the book, why Emily wanted to put it out there, was just to tell others to believe in themselves, and to keep the faith no matter how hard the struggles are,” she said. “And that how important faith, family and friends are.
“The book helped me reflect again on the wonderful support Emily had from her family, and all the prayers that were said all over the world for her. It just reinstilled in my mind how wonderful people are. They help you carry that load through difficult times.”
The project wasn’t easy for her daughter, Liz Markert said. She didn’t like to look back at her hardships.
“She was so positive that she didn’t look at the past. To have to actually capture everything and put it down in writing was a little more difficult than I think she expected.”
“For Emily, I think it was a way to share her story,” Schmitz said. “As I’ve been working on it, it’s been really inspiring to see her mindset through the whole thing. Especially since she passed when the book wasn’t quite finished, it was also very healing to work on the book, because you still felt like she was very close, helping you finish it.
“It was very inspiring, to see all the hardships she faced, one after another, but she only was able to face those because she kept battling back after each one.
“Emily and I ran together in high school, and she was someone who just ‘gets’ running. A lot of people think runners are crazy. She ‘gets’ the total satisfaction you feel after running,” Schmitz continued.
“Emily was really good at it, and all of a sudden that was taken from her. Through this whole ordeal, doctors told her she would never run again, but she did. But she didn’t just want to run again, she wanted to be good at it.”
Schmitz ran in the Boston Marathon, and Emily Markert was able to run with her the last mile.
Emily Markert founded a run/walk event to raise awareness of organ donation. The first event was held just a few weeks after she passed away on Aug. 15, 2014 ,at age 32.
“Even now when I struggle to do anything, to go out in the cold or getting up early in the morning to run, I think Emily would love to do that,” Schmitz said. “To get up and go.”