I didn’t know what to wear last night.
I stood in my closet and wasn’t sure what to wear or how to accessorize.
If you know me at all, you aren’t shocked.
Really there have only been about 2 times in my life when I have felt confident that my outfit or accessory choice was anywhere near right and I typically just go with whatever I have on when I am out of time and have to walk out of the house and it has only gotten worse since I have had kids.
The only reason any of it was even a second thought last night was because where I was going was to celebrate the life of someone who had more sense of style than anyone I have met in my entire life.
The thing about life is that it is a million different things all wrapped into one and sometimes, like right now, it is impossible to separate all of those things into anything that makes any sort of sense.
Life is beautiful and fragile and heartbreaking and perfect.
It is happy and sad and terrible and amazing.
It is busy and lonely and hopeful and hopeless.
It is full of millions and millions of moments that shape you, but it is how you choose to handle those moments, what you choose to make of those moments, who you choose to impact with those moments that make you who you are.
Life is a whole big bunch of things…but often times, fair isn’t one of them.
I was nervous as I drove to the memorial service to celebrate the life of a college friend last night.
Was it silly to cry as much as I had cried this week?
I hadn’t been there through any of her battle, I wasn’t her best friend, we didn’t see each other very much once the college dance team days were over and we never spent time chatting on the phone or exchanging texts or e-mails.
We had dinner and drinks recently, but it had been a couple of years since I had seen her before then, but that didn’t matter.
I could not keep myself from my random outbursts of serious emotions ever since I had gotten the call that she had died earlier this week.
This whole thing brought on a flood of emotions that I wasn’t prepared for.
My interactions with her in the years that followed college were sporadic at best, so it is not like my day to day life was impacted on the horrific level that so many others were but I could not stop crying.
My heart broke repeatedly this week on so many different levels.
I sat there last night and I watched the pictures go by and I was nearly paralyzed whenever any picture of her as a little girl came onto the screen. All of the pictures were beautifully difficult to look at, but the ones of her with her mom and dad and sister shook me at the core.
I am a mom. I am a sister. I am a daughter. I am a friend.
I have kids. I take those pictures. I have those moments.
I struggled as a sister.
I heard the news and her sister was the first person I thought of.
Her sister, whose strength over the last six years is the kind I cannot even pretend to fathom, has been in my head all week and I just kept finding myself wondering if she was okay, wanting to give her a hug, wishing I could say ANYTHING that was worth anything but there is nothing that you can say that doesn’t seem to come up unbelievably short when something as incredibly sad as this happens.
As a sister…as someone who dressed up my little sister in crazy dance costumes and made our parents sit on the couch and watch our dance shows like they were the most important things on earth, as someone who bossed around my little brother like he was my kid and not my brother, as someone who laughed and danced and sang my way through road trips on family vacations with them, it is hard for me to think that another family with those same memories is hurting so very much.
I struggled as a friend.
I sat and poured over all of the pictures from back in the college days, when we had the babiest of baby faces but felt like we ruled the world.
Even when you are living in a moment that you know is fantastic, even when you make yourself stop to breathe and take it all in and try your best to etch it in your brain to remember forever, even when you know that you are a part of something amazing…there is a different tone to it all when something so heartbreaking happens.
Suddenly you appreciate what all of those moments meant to you, what all of those moments did for you and how those moments shaped you a little bit more.
As a friend…as someone who was fortunate enough to have had the short amount of time spending all of my days as a part of an amazing team with her, as someone who has pictures and memories and hilarious stories to share, it is hard to think that when we plan our next little reunion like the one we had just a couple of months ago that she won’t be physically there.
We were supposed to meet up for another mini reunion yesterday…it just wasn’t supposed to be like this.
I struggled as a person.
I tired to find the balance between knowing that she was no longer suffering and being angry that she suffered at all.
As a person…as someone who appreciates the people around me, who realizes the impact of a beautiful soul and as someone who tries so hard to make sure everyone is taken care of and everyone is okay to the point of exhaustion, it is hard for me to understand why someone so amazing had to endure so much.
All of those struggles were real and they were heartbreaking as I watched the hundreds of photos in the perfectly timed slide shows that played to the perfectly chosen music during the memorial…but my true struggle, the struggle that I cannot seem to shake, is that of a mother.
When I read the beautiful words that her mom wrote on Facebook to announce that her daughter had passed away, I had a hard time breathing.
Yes, I have struggled on different levels with all of this…but nothing like the struggle I feel as a mom.
Life isn’t fair.
Both of Leslie’s parents spoke last night.
Both of them spoke of the memory of their daughter who so positively impacted so many lives and they did it with the same grace and dignity that Leslie did everything with.
No, life isn’t fair.
But if you looked at Leslie, if you saw her smile, if you could see how many people’s lives she impacted…
If you heard stories from her current and former students, if you saw the dancers she coached perform a dance in her memory at her memorial…
If you looked at the smiles on the faces of the members of her family as they took their last family vacation, if you ever heard her and her sister laugh together, if you ever were around her when Justin Timberlake came on the radio…
If you knew all of the things that she did, all of the lives she made better, all of the days that she lived all while battling a battle that would eventually take her life…
You would realize that life doesn’t have to be fair for you to still live it entirely, dance carelessly, love completely and dress fabulously.
If I could, for one second, carry myself the way that she carried herself, dress the way that she dressed, impact people the way that she did…I would be one happy girl.
I was nervous as I walked in to the school for the celebration of Leslie’s life last night.
Would I cry too much?
Would I not cry at all?
Would it be awkward and uncomfortable?
Was that a stupid question?
Would I know what to say when I saw her sister?
Would she care that I was going to give her a great big squeeze even though she didn’t want to be hugged?
I wasn’t sure what to expect last night as I tried to picture sitting among the group of girls who were like a family to me for a portion of my life.
And then I got there.
And in a perfectly orchestrated manner, my struggles were taken care of, I was taken care of and the countless people that FILLED the auditorium of Neuqua Valley High School.
We were taken care of by her, and I will forever be thankful for that.
From her list of favorite quotes from the program we received last night…
“There is always, always, always, something to be thankful for.”
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