Tonight I attended a rosary service for a woman I barely knew and left wishing I had known her better. One of Gym Girl's teammates lost her mother on Monday after a three-year battle with cancer. As a parent, how do you explain to your child why a ten-year-old girl and her sixteen-year-old brother no longer have their mother? In addition, I struggled with the best solution to Gym Girl's desire to attend the funeral tomorrow. While we've never really hidden the realities of life and death from our children, they've been fortunate not to lose anyone close enough to them to attend the funeral. Several of the other team moms mentioned to me that they were taking their girls to the rosary as opposed to the funeral, and I decided Gym Girl and I would join them.
Seeing the glow on the face of Gym Girl's friend when her teammates walked in made any trepidation I had about attending fade away. The priest began his remarks by saying that, although it's often difficult to know what to say to families during times of great loss, simply being present is what's important. It was clearly true for Gym Girl's friend, a friend who looks so like Gym Girl that her mother and I more than once remarked at meets that we'd mistaken each other's daughters for our own. Both girls dressed in identical leotards with their hair pulled back were almost impossible to tell apart. But now, Gym Girl has a mother, and her friend doesn't.
It's a thought too painful to consider for very long. The thing that stood out, though, from what her friends, family, and her very brave and strong husband had to say about her was that this was a woman who made a difference in her world. By being a mother, a friend, a wife, a daughter, and by fighting valiantly against the disease that would eventually take her life, she showed people every day how to appreciate life, how not to allow yourself to take the good things in life for granted, and how to truly believe that God would take care of you no matter what earthly trials had to be faced. She touched so many people during her battle, including my friend dealing with cancer, who credits her with encouraging her to go to the doctor instead of avoiding dealing with her symptoms. My friend believes this woman literally saved her life, while ultimately losing her own.
My prayers tonight go out to the entire family and especially to the precious children she loved so much and left behind. Her thirty-six years were well-lived, but, so very, very short.