Tuesday, August 26, 2008

celebration and sadness

I had the incredible opportunity to spend last weekend in rain-drenched Orlando as a vendor at SDV - Scrapper's Dream Vacation. For those of you who have never heard of it - it is everything the name implies. An entire weekend of non-stop scrapping, shopping, food, fellowship, music, dancing, laughing, crying – and…as an added surprise – we even had Mickey Mouse! Along with my fellow S4I-er Shirley Pando and our friend Suzanne Mulet we had a WONDERFUL time at our I Remember When booth – and thanks to Suzanne’s freaky ability to stay up until the wee hours – we actually manned the booth AROUND THE CLOCK!!

But SDV is also something else. In December 2006, SDV’s Founder Nancy Bohrer was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. Throughout 2007 she shared her story with attendees at SDVs around the country – encouraging women to get mammograms and do their monthly breast self-exams. In December 2007 she was declared cancer free – and last weekend (and SDVs held earlier this year) was a celebration of her victory and of her life and of her strength. This was my first SDV so I did not know Nancy personally, but her story and the inspiration she gave to others around her was evident in every face and every hug and every moment. It is a powerful feeling to be in a room full of women of every age, background, ethnicity and circumstance - all lifting one another up in celebration and fellowship. Truly something to behold.


After such an invigorating weekend I returned home energized and inspired and motivated…until I opened an email from the sister of a dear, dear friend in Anchorage.

When my husband and I moved to Alaska I immediately went on the lookout for friends. I began teaching scrapbooking classes at a community school and in my home – and one night this firecracker of a woman – Joy Riggs – arrived on my doorstep and my life was never to be the same. Joy was from South Africa and had moved to Alaska as a single mom, found and married her soul mate, and just went about living life to its utmost. She was old enough to be my mother, was funny and sarcastic, felt deeply and loved openly, adored my husband and my dogs, and she and her family took me in as one of their own – inviting me for meals, checking on me when Don was gone – she just had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the room whenever you were with her. She was larger than life.

When Don and I left Alaska in February she and her husband Max attended our going away party and something just didn’t seem right. She seemed tired, didn’t really interact with anyone – I selfishly attributed it to her being sad that I was leaving, but I would later find out that she had just been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor – but didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to “ruin my party”. So – for the first few months we emailed back and forth…her always with an upbeat attitude and jokes about her treatment, me telling her how wonderful I thought she was and how much I missed her. Eventually her sister Theresa started writing for her because typing was too difficult – and on Sunday Theresa sent her final email. Felicity (Joy) Riggs died on August 24th – a little more than six months after her diagnosis. She was a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, a grandmother, a life force, a blessing to everyone who knew her, and an absolute joy in my life – in everyone’s life. She will be missed beyond measure.

So this weekend was truly one of celebration and sadness – and a profound reminder to celebrate the victories, be inspired by the miraculous, and cherish the everyday moments you share with those you love.

To Nancy – thank you for being such a brave and boisterous voice for women – for teaching them to value their bodies, their health, their friendships, their stories, and themselves.

To Joy – your friendship and generosity, the lessons you taught me about love and living, your coming in to my life was a gift I will never be able to repay. Thank you for sharing yourself with those around you so freely and fully…we miss you.


1 comment:

Laurie said...

Beth, I am so sorry to hear about your friend. It is never easy to lose someone you love.


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