you know when something big happens in your life, and it has really affected you? you know how you have to sit on it, think about it, let it percolate a bit, just so you can get everything out of it that you possibly can? well, I have had one of those experiences.
one of the leaders from my youth passed away a couple of weeks ago.
she was a miracle.
she had been diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma eight years ago. the doctors didn’t give her much time. but she fought. it was a most excellent fight.
numbers upon number of surgeries, countless hours spent either enduring chemo or radiation, and the even more countless hours of pain and sickness, and she was not one to complain.
everytime there was a new development in her health, she would post something she was thankful for on facebook. her positivity was amazing.
right after the new year, she was rushed to the hospital, and was told then that she didn’t have much time left. but I believe that she was ready.
she is such an example to me. as I reflect back on the parts of her life that have directly affected me, I am thankful for what she taught me.
theresa was called to be young women’s president when I was 16 (funny fact, she was the age that I am now when she was called..). I was the bishop’s daughter, their family had just moved into the ward from out of state, and I didn’t know her well. add to these factors that the previous presidency had been in for nearly the previous 4 years, and i had grown to love them dearly . it was a hard change.
now I am not using that as an excuse for my behavior (more to come on that), it’s just that being a teenager is hard enough, add to that changes (which I am not good at dealing with), and you can get a not too chipper kid.
that being said, I was a brat.
I never said anything purposely hurtful to her, I was not mean-spirited, I was just unhappy, not excited about this change, not excited about someone I basically knew nothing about. I didn’t treat her with the respect she deserved.
but she didn’t treat me any differently.
she still cared about me, was so incredibly friendly to me, treated me with much more respect than I was sure I deserved. things improved little by little over time, teaching me these little lessons all the while, little lessons that I didn’t realize were just that until I was more mature. but the biggest lesson she taught me, personally, came that summer.
I used to be the most homesick kid you ever met. I couldn’t even go two doors down for a sleep-over with my best friend without getting homesick. there were times I was able to tough it out and stay the night, then there were those other times I would call my parents and they would come walk me home at 10:30 at night. it didn’t get any better as I got older. (I blame my family for making me love them so much, blame my mom for making home such a wonderful place to be.)
this particular summer, I was called to be a youth leader for an all girls church camp (remember “laurel legacy” anyone?). it meant a week away from my family, my home, my room, and my friends, to stay in a tent with five other girls, none of whom I knew outside of this experience. there would be girls coming from my ward and stake later in the week, but I wouldn’t be staying with them. I would get to see them, but when it came to the bulk of my time, I was with these other girls who attended different stakes, different schools. I grew incredibly homesick.
I spent most of my time those first three days praying, crying, reading my scriptures, and praying more. out of desperation, I wrote my mom a letter. it was quite miserable. looking back on it, it was a pretty silly idea, because, how was I going to get it to my mom? it wasn’t like there was mail service there. while I would like to say that it helped, it really didn’t.
the day came when all the girls from the wards and stakes arrived, and with it, their leaders. MY leaders.
I saw theresa’s face. I ran to her, and she opened her arms and hugged me while I cried on her shoulder. she didn’t let go, she didn’t push me away, she just held onto me. I think she even cried a little herself. she reassured me that I would be fine. I remember her telling me that things would get so busy after that that I wouldn’t even have time to be homesick. she even waited while I ran back to my tent to get that letter for my mom. she would deliver it.
as I look back, realizing what a brat I was, I think of how undeserving I was of her grace. would I have treated someone who wasn’t so kind to me that way?
I have thought of that often. while my inner thoughts might not match up to my outward actions, I am hoping that they will match up, that I can have truly loving, kind, and charitable thoughts about everyone, regardless of how they have treated me in the past.
I am so grateful that she treated me better than I deserved.
I am thankful to know that where she is, there is no more pain and illness for her. I am thankful for the knowledge I have that she will be whole, with her family for eternity. I am so thankful for her Christlike example, that will undoubtedly stay with me for the rest of my life.