“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you deal with it is what makes the difference.” — Virginia Satir
Just the other day, I had chatted on the phone with Jodi’s friend, Emily. It was a wonderful and lively conversation that reunited our connection — in some ways more like girlfriends.
I was struck by the essence of time as it had been seven years since Jodi’s diagnosis. It was during our phone call that we both felt the paradox of time — you know what I mean.
“When I think about these past seven years,” said Emily — “there’s been so many changes like college, moving to NYC, three years of a career, friends, relationship commitments, travel and more.” “And yet Jodi had only 18 months . . . and so much had happened in so very little time.”
Later that night, I thought about Emily’s insight and perspective on time. Seven years ago, I had done some research on Lance Armstrong. I remember he wrote that cancer was the best experience in his life. He had found a new perspective on life, new relationships with family and friends and developed a foundation of cancer survivors.
I had asked in the past and even now, is this life experience pointing us to commit our life’s purpose for a greater good? What are your thoughts?
I never thought how hard it would be to write to you today – my birthday.
My thoughts take me back to my birthday – 2004. Here we are celebrating – so much more than your mother aging another year. It was an evening of celebrations – you had traveled that week to Michigan for orientation, the scans showed no signs of cancer, we were all rejuvenated from our month at the shore and life was wonderful again. You even designed a personal card – just for me . . .
July 16, 2004
Happy Birthday! I know that you are approaching that time in your life where you no longer wish to celebrate your birth. However, I believe we should not just celebrate our birth, but each and every day. We should celebrate each new and wonderful day that is given to us.
I hope you continue to live each day to the fullest. I am so very thankful to have you in my life. Your unconditional love and support
has made you more than my mother, but my best friend. I wish you all
the best today, tomorrow, and forever. I love you!
In my fifty-second year, I intend to embrace your words and truly celebrate each and every day . . . thank you for your present!
I spent the afternoon with Deric’s family – his wife Kinsey and beautiful daughter Kya. It felt like yesterday, when 15 years ago, I decided to hire a college student for the summer to work in the business.
Our relationship had nothing to do with “summer” employment – it was more about sharing our lives with Deric – who quickly became part of our family. And now, our love has expanded to include his family – and they too share a similar journey of life, love and loss.
Although Kya is only ten months old, she will never meet her Aunt Katie. In the same way that Lauren has never met you – her cousin. Kya will only know her mother’s younger sister through heartfelt spoken words, photographs or snuggled in that t-shirt quilt — all to keep her spirit like yours vibrantly alive for all to know.
June – the milestone month for you and your brother securing your driver’s license. Remember the day . . . you finally passed on June 13th, 2002. You were so happy! While Jamie got his five years ago today.
After many months of driving practice, lessons with the driving school instructor and two previous attempts with some very minor driving errors – you passed the test with new-found confidence! Lots of perseverance, with some trials including the times you hit the curb, slightly tapped the fender and endless practicing of exit ramps – all in hopes of passing the test.
Getting your license gave you much happiness. I remember the days after your passing, we were all feeling so sad and broken – that your brother had quietly claimed your driver’s license and Michigan ID.
I knew then and know now that all he wanted was to hold on to your happiness – seeing you happy. It was during those final weeks that you refused to let any of us hold on to a memory less than your vibrant, happy and fun self. This included your brother, for whom you had the most desire to see happy.
Amazingly you have challenged me to pursue the highest of all goals – happiness. The end toward which all other ends lead.
It is often at this time of year that I ask the question, “What IF?” It may pose an abstract question in context, but truly the answer lies within my personal transformation.
One of my secrets in coping is to co-create my world into our world. I remember vividly moments of fear – times caught between life and death. Now, I no longer question the “Why?” but embrace this experience of “What IF?”
In talking more with others about my personal loss — I have transformed. My soul is now a little more kinder, more loving, and more compassionate. The “What IF?” transformed my tragedy into an expansion of your beauty in spirit.
And tomorrow morning, your father and I will attend the 159th commencement of The Hill, to honor the recipient of your award. And so it will be — “What IF?” … your legacy is named the only young woman award for outstanding leadership and high sportsmanship in competitive athletics forever? As your mother, I say “Why Not?”
I’ve thought about what I’d write to you today – Mother’s Day. I could easily write — all that I had done for you, the lessons I taught you, and even how I embarrassed you — being your mother. Or recall past Mother’s Days and even dream about our future of what could have been. Either way — I had to “give you back.”
And that has been the hardest job of being a mother! As time passes, the more I’m convinced that surviving changes us. I look at life differently because your death gave my life new meaning and purpose.
Often I think about our final hours and moments together. We made promises to each other and most importantly, we talked about the lonely journey ahead. I believe you were leading me into the future — while I was loving and holding you.
The late Gilda Radner said it well: “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned the hard way that some poems don’t rhyme and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what is going to happen next.”
Delicious ambiguity on my sixth Mother’s Day without you.
“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.” — Lao Tzu
I found this quote on The Happiness Project blog. It made me think of Jodi. I’m sure many would describe Jodi as a fierce competitor with a mindset of relentless determination and discipline.
Although her athletic and academic achievements were the results of her competitive spirit – she truly was more content to simply be herself. She believed that athletic records (including marshmallow mouth stuffing contests) and even medical statistics were meant to be broken – even if the odds were not in her favor.
It was July, 2003 – only a few days after her biopsy and we were awaiting the results. This one summer evening, Jodi was surrounded at home by a group of classmates – all who loved her and their friendship. I can remember these friends looking at her with signs of vast disbelief. They revered her as an athletic competitor who trumped the impossible game scoring buzzer goals and out swam to win by hundreds of a second races – all for her Hill team!
It was on that night when Jodi told me, “I’m not afraid if it’s cancer.” I knew then that she chose not to compare herself nor compete with the good fortunes of her friends. She wanted to use cancer as a conduit for opportunity. To “be Jodi” meant to help others who secretly wanted and needed more in their life than the jewels she contentedly had.
What about you – are you comparing and competing with others? Or are you content to simply be yourself?