On Saturday I had hoped to be at the wedding of a friend's just-turned-21-year-old daughter.
Instead, I was at the memorial for a just-turned-14-year-old gem of a girl who lost her battle with leukemia.
Emma was the daughter of C's simply amazing math teacher. This teacher gives of herself in a way that few teachers are able to. When C, D and I went for the first information night about C's school, there were several students there who were talking about their favorite experiences at the school. This teacher's name came up again and again. I can personally vouch for this woman's extraordinary care and commitment - despite her daughter's illness, she took a special interest in C and tried with everything in her power to help him overcome some real struggles which he had with Algebra 2 last year. It was also evident that she is a superb, dedicated and loving mom. No surprises there.
From what I can tell, the entire family is extraordinary. The young woman who died was someone who grabbed life with both hands - she was always optimistic, never had a bad word to say to anyone, faced her illness and treatments bravely, had straight A+'s in school, many extra-curricular interests, a special fondness for animals, respect and love for all people. Her dad and younger sister are obviously equally loved (I've already spoken of her wonderful mother) - I think the sister's entire class and their parents showed up to lend her support. Her father gave the most touching eulogy I've ever heard, and shared so many details of Emma's life it was clear that this is a family who really listens to each other, who learns the details that makes each person in the family unique.
Then you have to ask yourself, why?
It's the old question of why do bad things happen to good people? Why is another friend of mine losing her 54-year-old husband to brain cancer? Why was this girl, who by all accounts was a true angel on earth, taken so young?
Obviously, none of us have answers to the hard questions. Some of us find solace in various religions; some of us do not.
What I can take from this is that each day is a gift. Each time I can hold a loved one close, it's a gift. Each time I can read an involving book, bite into a sun-warmed tomato, plunge into the ocean, smile across a table at a favorite friend, visit with you all via your blogs and e-mails, it is a gift.
Gifts are unpredictable. Make the most of yours.