It was the fall of 2006, and the month of November to be exact. My daughter Lauren, a high school junior, had been working with her good friend, Jenn on a school project when Jenn didn’t show up for one of their prearranged dates. Because it was so out of character for Jenn, Lauren contacted her mom and was told that Jenn was not feeling well. Lauren went ahead and worked on the project, certain that Jenn would feel better and be able to jump back in as soon as she recuperated. But Jenn never got better. By the end of the week Lauren knew that Jen would never come back. Jenn had contracted meningitis, the type that few ever make a recovery from. On Saturday, when Lauren was supposed to be focusing on her SAT Prep course, her mind went to Jenn. She called me from her cell phone during her break, crying. Many of Jenn’s friends were already gathering around her bedside, saying their last good-byes, wishing and praying there was something, anything they could do to change the inevitable. By Saturday evening/Sunday morning, Jenn was gone. The life we all knew as an outgoing, smart, beautiful young woman with so much potential, had been taken far too soon. Then came the days of grief, the burial and the final good-byes from countless family members, school classmates and long time friends. Let’s be honest. I cried. This could have been my daughter. This could have been me. I cried for her parents. Often. I didn’t even know them! I cried for them the day her classmates started their first day of their senior year. I cried when my daughter went to her last Homecoming dance. There would be no first or lasts for Jenn’s senior year. The anniversary of Jenn’s death came much quicker than I anticipated. I knew that we needed to do something for her parents. I wanted to let them know that we still remembered. Life may have moved forward for our kids but the world stood still for them. I held onto the newspaper clipping of the obituary so I would never forget the date. I still have it. I don’t know the how or why, but I decided I would bring them flowers every year as a reminder that we knew she lived. So my daughter and I dropped the flowers off on their porch on the first anniversary of her passing. We left a note saying she was not forgotten. Nor would she ever be. Truth is, the flower delivery was a therapy of sorts for us, and I hoped it was for them too. We did it every year for five years, until I moved out of state. In those in-between years, when Lauren was away at college, my youngest daughter and I drove them over. I have to admit, it was really hard when Lauren went off to college. I cried knowing that they no longer had that dream to look forward to either. The day Lauren graduated with her college degree, the day she gave her vows before God and to Michael and the day they moved to Michigan, all were subtle reminders that Jenn would not be doing any of those things. I still remember her every year. I’m certain life has moved forward for her family. Somehow, life has a way of doing that. They have now raised an adopted daughter and their son has given them many grandchildren. Perhaps life is full for them but most assuredly, Jenn has never been forgotten. Not by us, most certainly not by them.
This year, the random act came back, unexpectedly.
I never envisioned it happening because living and loving is never about expecting anything in return. It is really about putting it out there because you have it to give. You have been given it. That’s the bottom line for me. I have been given much. I believe one should pour it out where he/she can. Be generous in kindness. Expect nothing in return.
Anyway, my college graduate, wife, and now mom-to-be, Lauren, sent me a little photo yesterday and I cried all over again. And, she was crying. It was a sweet card with a gift card enclosed for the baby. The greeting itself was a gift of immeasurable value. Priceless actually. It was from Jen’s parents. They expressed how they appreciated the fact that Lauren had always remembered Jenn after her death. How did they know Lauren was married? How did they get her address in Michigan, and how did they know she was to be a momma soon? I guess when you are touched, you find away. So here I am again, humbled at such a lovely gesture of kindness that came back full fold.
So why write something so personal? My blog is usually about art and junk, certainly not about the ups and downs of living. Life is far too short, my friends. Be a little bit vulnerable. Reach out to someone. Be kind. Show kindness. Give a little bit more than you get. Maybe a lot more. Expect nothing in return. Guaranteed you will be the recipient of that “kindness” stuff ten times over. I promise. And it happens when and where you least expect it.
I stand as a testimony. And yet again, I have been given even more. And by all means, hug those you love and reach out to a few of those who maybe aren’t so lovable. Now is the time.