A few years ago, when I was undergoing treatment for cancer, I was one of three people from my church of about the same age who were doing so. The other two, Susie and Jen, were battling breast cancer, and I use the word “battling” in the truest sense of the word. While I made a speedy recovery, Susie and Jen continued to struggle through sickness and treatment. While I regained my strength, I watched these two people define for me the true meaning of strength, even as their bodies grew weaker.
In August of 2009, Susie lost her battle. And today, Jen was laid to rest.
Despite attending the same church as Susie and Jen, I barely knew them. For the majority of the time I have gone there, they have both been fighting for their lives and most often that fight took place, out of necessity, either at home or in the hospital. Still, it was hard not to feel their presence, the influence their lives had on everyone they knew.
When I think of Jen, I think of Halloween. Some of my best memories since I moved to Tennessee are of the epic Halloween parties she and her family would put together. Even as I was just learning who my fellow church-goers were, I got to see them dressed as all manner of weird and, sometimes, inappropriate things. The parties had it all–music, a campfire, themed dishes, costume contests, and a haunted hayride. Right in the middle of it was Jen, even as she frequently had to excuse herself to be discreetly sick from the poisons used to treat her cancer.
Eventually, as the disease claimed more and more of her, Jen became an ideal instead of someone we once sat next to on Sunday mornings. Like the Greek heroes of mythology ascended into the sky as constellations, so Jen ascended to all of us. She became more than a person–she became a symbol of strength, of bravery, and of the effect one life can have on multitudes of others. Jen is gone to us today, just like those heroes of myth, but like the constellations, the lives she touched form a constellation of love that will shine on forever.
So, to Jen’s family, I wish to express my sincerest sympathies, especially to her daughter, Kattie. Having lost my mother in my 30’s, I can’t imagine how hard it must be to lose one so young.
And to Jen, thank you.