Saturday, April 19, 2014

What she taught me

Last night, I had the honor of surrounding a dear friend's family with my love as we all had to say good-bye to one of the bravest women I've ever known. After years of battling breast cancer, my dear Deyla is now at peace. 

While I can't even pretend to know what it is like to lose your child (her parents) or leave your children too soon, I've found myself pondering what I can do in my life to honor hers. We never had the opportunity to really sit down and learn about her wishes, but there are things that are just a given. We will continue to support her family; we will share all of our fun memories with her children; and we'll be there to celebrate all of life's moments with her family. We know that that is what she would want from us. 

I still find myself asking....what would Deyla ask of us for our lives?

Don't forget each other
I met Deyla at the University of Chicago. I was in my third year at the college and she was just a first year. I grew to know Deyla when she made the choice to pledge my sorority - Sigma Lambda Gamma. I was first her Dean of Pledges but eventually her sister. The amount of time we spent together was intense, frustrating, funny, loving, etc. - all the emotions that one can associate with pledging. 

She was the calm force in her Line. Nothing would rattle her. As you can well imagine, that was frustrating for me as her Dean but I secretly admired her for getting "it" so quickly. She never gave up and knew that the process was about making us an unbreakable unit. 

So it didn't surprise me to have her reach out to all of us when she was first diagnosed. She knew we would have her back regardless of whether or not we had spoken recently. All she had to do was ask and we were there. 

We did everything we could to support her, but I know we all feel we could have done more. I don't think that guilt is unique to our group...I'm guessing everyone who has lost a loved one to illness will always feel this way. 

Her illness brought us together with such determination and love for each other, that I know she would want us to remain this strong. We won't stray....we hear you Dey!

Don't neglect your health
Deyla didn't do anything that was neglectful. She was chosen to go through this difficult journey to teach the rest of us to treat our bodies like temples. We don't know how much time we have in this world. We should all assume it is limited and try to live the healthiest and fullest lives possible. 

What does that mean for me? I've been overweight most of my life. While part of that may be genetics, a huge part is my own neglect. I don't eat right and I don't exercise. Changing 30+ years of bad habits will be hard, but it's time step up my game and get on the right path. 

Hydrating, eating healthier and regular exercise will now become a part of my daily routine. 

Be prepared for emergencies
The financial strain that a terrible illness brings on families is immeasurable. The actual amount cannot be quantified but one can start to make an estimate and that thought is paralyzing. 

Note to self - get your shit together financially. I'm not even prepared to be laid off let alone deal with a medical emergency!

Bring joy to others
I think I do okay in this realm....but Deyla was the queen. Her smile, her giggle and her incredible listening skills changed everyone's lives. It was a privilege to have her in my life. I can only hope that when my time is ending, that I will be surrounded with love and that those left here on this earth will share sweet memories of me with others. 

Thank you Dey...I hope my life will make you proud.