At that time, kids who lived in about a 1-mile radius were allowed to “pick up the bus” at a central location. Our stop was at the Southwood Acres shopping plaza. Every morning, a congregation of 20-30 kids would gather at the “town hall” (actually a DairyMart convenience store) and discuss the complexities of our young lives while enjoying our daily rations of hot chocolate, honey buns, a pack of smokes, a few candy bars, or a Slurpee.
We talked to one another face-to-face. We overhead others’ conversations. We congratulated someone for a wrestling match pin, or scoring a goal in the soccer game, or made plans for an after-school street hockey game. We were a thriving and healthy community.
With 220 kids in our graduating class, everyone sort of knew everyone, but that didn’t mean we were all friends. Although Jennifer and I lived in the same community, and I used to deliver newspapers to her house as a younger kid, we never became good friends. It was high school; she had her friends and I had mine. To put it in modern Facebook terms, we were merely cordial acquaintances.
During this past winter, I saw a few Facebook posts in which Jennifer alluded to her failing health, but she was never quite specific. Her words captivated me because they were always positive. On January 31, 2017, I sent Jennifer a private Facebook message without knowing how my message would be received.
Her reply: ” I am completely honored that you reached out like this… it is so crazy because I am an avid writer and I am an ordained minister so I am always writing sermons… I am a true believer in everything happens for a reason and I personally believe God has put us together on this path! I would love to speak with you about this (I contacted Jen about writing a book together) and I am totally on board…”
Although we had a few FB Messenger conversations, we never spoke on the phone and we never met in person. She suffered from Multiple Sclerosis and other various ailments that kept her primarily confined to her home.
I last texted with Jennifer on March 20. She mentioned to me, “My health is getting much worse, so I hope to do it soon (get together to discuss writing a book). Well I have one heck of a story for you and I think it is your job to put peoples’ stories into words.”
Jennifer believed her life purpose was to do as Thoreau suggests: To affect the quality of the day (for someone else.)
In reading tribute posts about Jennifer today, I can only imagine how powerful Jennifer’s healing words were for her family, friends, clients, students, and followers. She clearly impacted the quality of life for many, no matter how long it had been since she spoke to them, or how well she knew them.
Her sermons, her words, her actions, her compliments, and the memories of her friendship will live on in the hearts of all who knew her.
She was, is, and always will be accomplished in the highest of arts. She sacrificed her own comfort to offer compassion to others. We didn’t need to be her best friend to receive, admire, and appreciate her benevolent quality of character.
I, along with many others, thank you for welcoming me briefly into your life, Jennifer. May peace be with you now!
Be Kind. Be Thankful. Be Significant.