Tuesday, August 18, 2009


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.


thailandchani said...

It's a complicated issue, for sure. They do sound like a wonderful family and it's always a mystery to me how that happens!


Jen said...

To me, too, Chani.

Brian Miller said...

life is a flickering taper...enjoy each moment before it blows out...heart wrenching post...it saddens me when they are taken so young...

Korie said...

There really is no good answer, but you're right that we need to remember to enjoy the moments we have.

painted maypole said...

it is a broken world. there is no "why"

I'm sorry for your loss, and glad that you can still find a way to take this horrible thing and find a positive in it

(which, by the way, as a religious person is what I think God is about... not taking a life because he wants that person in heaven or because someone on earth needs to learn something... i don't buy that 'everything happens for a reason' stuff - but I do believe that God can't take the bad things that happen in our broken world and use them for good)

anno said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this, Jen. Emma sounds like a wonderful girl, and her death is a real loss.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that it is all a gift, that even the trip to the hardware store is something we get to do. Thanks for the reminder.

Jen said...

Brian - well said, as always.

Lilac - yes, and it's easy to forget on those "rough" days.

PM - good points, all. It's also a good way to think about the world. I don't think Emma was religious, but one thing she wrote in an essay a couple of years ago was in reflecting on her grandfather's death and the funeral, there was the great loss of her grandfather, but a coming together of family, and maybe that's the "gained" from death. Ironic, huh?

Anno - I think you're so right on the fact that we "get" to do these things.

Goofball said...

There's no answer to the why question.

And yes....I try to enjoy my life to the fullest.

Anonymous said...

yes, gifts.

Virtualsprite said...

This made me cry, in a good way. You are so right.

Jen said...

Goofball - a good philosophy.

Hotmama - I agree

Sprite - thanks.

Betsy said...

Oh Jen, I'm so sorry to hear this! She sounds like she was a wonderful person!

Thanks for the reminder not to take anything for granted!

Jen said...

Betsy, I think she was. And thanks for the kind words.

Jeanie said...

I'm so very sorry about your friend. You're right -- we don't have the answers, and all we can do is grab every moment of every day and celebrate it. There's a good lesson in it, but why, oh why, are some denied the opportunity to keep grabbing for a very long while?

Hugs to you.

Susan @ SGCC said...

I'm so sad to hear this, Jen. Who knows why these things happen? I've been searching for the answer for a long time and haven't found it. All we can do is cherish the ones we love while we still have them with us.

Jen said...

Jeanie - yup, we have to cherish every, single moment.

Susan - very good point. I've lost my sister and my father, and learned lessons from both of those losses.