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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Another Reason to Hate Valentine's Day

During the course of a lifetime a lot of people come and go. Some of them are mere fleeting shadows on the wall of your conscious awareness, others are reflection in the glass and still there are others who are the ornaments of your house, sharing food and drink along with shared stories of joy and sorrow. I wrote a few years ago about someone who was part of my life for many years. Even though she remained on the periphery, never entering into the innermost circle of my life, she taught me be to be brave and try new things by overcoming the fears outside of myself. She was a classmate-sister from our small parochial school that cancer claimed when we were 38.

Today fate claimed another sister on icy roads. Jenny and I were never going to be super close friends. She was big, bold and undaunted by anything including her own insecurities. And that scared me. We attended a Christian campus ministry and thought similarly about some of the ridiculous social limitations. Jenny wasn't afraid to be herself even if that mad some people upset. I'd spent a life time challenging what was normal and could not be tolerated but I met Jenny when I was desperate to just fit in and let my own ideas go. She might not have given two cents for big fancy psychology terms but she always knew when and what wasn't quite right with someone. And she pegged me right away. I was afraid of things inside of myself.

Jenny, a hardcore tomboy, was boisterous, tenacious and doggedly determined to get everything that she could out of everything that she did. She was not really a sidelines kind of girl. And she encouraged others to step off the bleachers and get onto the field. "You don't have to do it forever but wouldn't you like to say you did it at least once?" Jenny and Jana were the ones who convinced me to get on one of Beauchamp's horses. I'd been horse back riding before. And I wouldn't normally turn down an opportunity like that. But I had gotten used to denying myself fun things for reason's that are too personal to go into here. Jenny saw that and convinced me that my logic was flawed. And when we were out at the Black Rocks of Presque Isle where jumping from dizzying heights into deep rocky waters below was something of a past time, she agreed to come back with me so that I could do it with out a crowd to make me nervous.

When we went out there we ended up sitting and watching the waves pounding on the ore laced rocks. Jenny dove in several times to prove it was safe. But I still couldn't do it. And we talked out there for a couple of hours about why. And she said to me again: "Wouldn't you like to say that you did it at least once?" She didn't mean just the Black Rocks. She meant everything. There are rules that make sense. Rules that do not make sense. There are rules that keep society safe. There are rules that keep society in line where safety is not an issue. And those are the rules that you have to challenge.

Jenny reminded me that there is nothing wrong with being a tomboy. And while everyone wants to fit in somewhere, you still have to be yourself. Jenny had told me that day that she often felt like she was "wrong" because she was such a tomboy. And that it didn't matter to the people who really loved her so it shouldn't matter to her. And by extension it shouldn't matter to me what people think. God had made us both as we were and you just can't tell him that he is wrong.

We only shared about a year and a half of campus ministry together. Sharing that time is a lot like how members describe a sorority of fraternity. We've one commonality that matters. We are family for that time. And parts of us always stay connected even though time and distance separate us. SO even though we are not close enough to call each other when we have a headache or need a hug on a bad day, we are part of each other. Jenny was at my birthday party which doubled as my going away party when I went back home to help dad take care of mom. And it's been close to 17 years since I had seen her, almost anyone really. In the meantime, Facebook was born and we all found each other again. As I said, we were not going to be super close. But we have had a couple of conversations on Facebook during the last year. We played a game there. And knowing that she would be closer to the UP felt like having family come back home. That was one more person who would be able to maybe get together for a reunion this Summer.

But if we do, Jenny won't be there. She and her husband and son died in a car accident today. Even though Jenny would not have been the first person I would call in a crisis, she is that person for two of my good friends. And she is one more person whose words will have to be memorized because she will no longer be here to tell me them herself. Beyond her words there is her example: boldly be yourself, no hesitation, no worries and no fear. And absolutely no apology, God doesn't apologize for making you the way you are so there is no reason to apologize for being yourself.

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