I had one of those experiences recently. On December 29th, I was sitting on a beach, under an umbrella, with a big hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a long sleeve UPF shirt, watching my daughter play in the ocean. She looked so carefree, smiling, finding joy in simplest acts- jumping, running, splashing.
I decided to take a "quick peek" at Facebook. It was then I learned that a melanoma warrior very close to my heart, had ended her journey here on Earth. NO! I'm sure I yelled out loud. Jillian, the brave, inspiring, 23 year old was now with wings. I cried. I watched my daughter and cried more, feeling so broken hearted for Jillian's mother, Susan, a woman I have come to love and admire so much. And right there, I remembered something from one of Susan's blog posts...I remembered that she had asked her own father, before he passed away, to watch for Jillian in Heaven...and that thought was very comforting. The idea that she was being greeted by her grandfather was calming.
My whole family "knows" Jillian. My kids walked "with Jillian" at the AIM at Melanoma walk, Jillian and Susan "are in" my office...
I knew telling my kids about Jillian's passing would be difficult...probably more of a challenge for me than them. Kids are so amazing.
With Ella, we were walking along the beach, holding hands and I decided to tell her that Jillian had gone to Heaven. She stopped. She looked at me....and said, "She's gone? Just like that? That's it? But she was so young." And I responded, "Yes, her body is gone, but so much of her is still with us and will be forever. She was so young; you are right. And now it's our turn to educate people the best we can to help prevent others from going through this." We started to walk again...and she said, "I'm so sad." I nodded and told her I felt the same way, squeezed her hand a little tighter and told her how much I love her.
With my sons (teens), it went like this...
Aidan was silent. That was his reaction. Just a sullen look. Oh how I wish I knew what was going on in that mind.
Max said what I think some think they are "supposed to" say, "I'm sorry, Mom. That's really sad." But then I could see in his eyes the wheels were turning...no words...just thoughts...and then came the question! "Hey Mom, how is it that you know about Jillian and not the other 25 who may have passed away today from melanoma?"
Now there's a whole topic that can be explored- the idea of sharing one's journey. We all have our ways of dealing with our cancer, and for some of us it's sharing our experience in hopes of educating others. For some, that is not part of the path. The same day Max asked me that, I got a private message from someone who wrote to tell me she loves the Respect the Rays page and what it provides for her, but that she can not "like" the page because no one knows about her cancer, except for her husband. It's ALL ok, whatever we choose. To answer Max's question, I told him just that- that some of us chose to share the journey, and that Susan decided to share Jillian's journey via Jilly's Jems and Jillian Hayes~Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight on Facebook and through her blog Jillian's Journey with Melanoma- A Mother's Story.
Jillian, her baby niece, & Susan
With this sharing from Jillian and Susan, I have learned so much about courage, grace, faith, love, and a deeper meaning into the proverb "fall seven times, stand up eight". I love you, Jillian and Susan!
"Rest high above the clouds, no restrictions......"
~Dave Matthews, Satellite