Life is usually filled with the ordinary. Days and weeks pass without anything too eventful and then out of the blue, life hands us a healthy dose of perspective. I have had one such week– one full of emotion and contemplation and worry and love. A week of reflection. And it started with the most terrible, heartbreaking news.
Early Monday morning, a terrible storm rolled through the Salt Lake Valley. It woke me from sleep as hail pounded against my bedroom window and I was grateful to be inside, warm and safe. But it was during that storm that a 45-year-old woman was driving to the airport before the sun rose, and as she tried to navigate the hail on the freeway, her car hit ice, started to spin, and hit a median. She got out of her car, just as another vehicle lost control and hit her. She died at the hospital.
That woman was a beautiful, caring, hilarious, talented mother, wife, friend, and dance instructor. Lisa Stoddard was my instructor for several years in college and I loved her dearly. She choreographed my favorite solo routine to date and supported me after I too became a coach, even coming to cheer my students on during competition. She had a way of gently encouraging and lifting her students up, which was so starkly different from many of my instructors past who chose intimidation rather than positivity. She profoundly impacted the sort of dance teacher I became, and I know I am far from the only person touched by her example and gift for teaching others.
The next day, my baby girl, my sweet Ruby, was put under anesthesia as a surgeon removed her hemangioma. It was a relatively minor procedure and I know she was in the very best care, but as the nurses wheeled her down the hall in a wagon toward the operating room, I completely lost it. I couldn’t help it. My whole world was away from my watchful eye and I was sick with worry.
Just as the surgery started, my husband was pulled into an urgent conference call and I found myself alone, sobbing quietly in the parent waiting room. The sad news from the day before weighed heavy on my heart as the thought of my daughter scared and confused weighed heavy on my mind. I felt a stare, and another woman in the room came over sat next to me, put her arm around me and said “are you Jen?” It was the mother of a friend of mine who had recognized me and came to comfort me, as her own daughter was undergoing open heart surgery. And she was comforting me. It was so unexpected and she was so sincere, I was deeply touched. Before I knew it, Jon had returned to my side, Ruby was ready to wake up, and I was rocking her safely in my arms.
All of the well wishes, prayers, and thoughts of Ruby from all of you on Instagram filled my heart. Thank you, thank you. You’ll never know how much it meant.
It was later that night, after Ruby was sleeping, that I learned another dear friend has received the news that his tumors are beginning to win his many years long battle with stage 4 colon cancer. No one has fought as valiantly, compassionately, and with more humor and service toward others than this man, and it all seems so unfair. Why must this amazing husband and father’s life end so soon? Why did my sweet instructor’s? Why?
These are things I will never understand– not in this life anyway. But here is something they have helped me understand, by their examples:
Life is a gift. Every second of every minute of every ordinary day. And while we can’t control how or when it will end, we can control how we choose to live it. How kind and compassionate and loving we are. How quick we are to anger, and how slow we are to forgive. And how selflessly we give of ourselves to better the lives of someone else.
Now at the end of this trying week, I’m filled with gratitude for this wonderful life I was given and for the people I get to spend it with.
And after all that heavy, I hope your weekend is full of all things happy. Back to design and DIY next week!
*An update on Ruby: We chose to remove her hemangioma after learning it was protruding in such a way that it would never go away completely on its own and she would have to have it surgically removed. She is thriving and frankly, doesn’t seem to notice she underwent any kind of procedure at all. Toddlers are miraculous, I tell ya. Thank you for your thoughts and concern. xx