Being thankful for those we’ve lost

While it is important to recognize your loved ones around you at the Thanksgiving table, I believe it is also respectful to remember those you lost who have mentored you in your maturity. For me, that person was a brave and sensitive soul named Sarah Isaacson who influenced me as I have developed as a person and a writer.

Ironically, Sarah died on this past election night after battling a brain tumor for fifteen years.

I met Sarah through an online writers’ course I took on the side when I first went to college back in 2009 where she helped me battle personal demons. There’s a whole lot I could say about that, but the only thing I will disclose is that she aroused my awareness to my sensitive nature and my need to guard my heart. She recognized how certain people would use scripture as a weapon out of fear or selfish gain, rather than genuine concern. Your natural actions, the way you conduct your daily living, will speak more volumes than angry shouts of protest any time.

Time. It’s about time. Take your time.

That’s what Sarah taught me most about time; I take care of my work, an art I am still working on. Despite having worked endless hours or days on a creative project, she encouraged me to polish it up and let the work marinate so it developed into its fullest potential. While I took the time in what I did, I still forced the edits and sometimes the writing died before it had a chance to breathe.

If you ever watched the animated kids’ movie “Charlotte’s Web,” Charlotte is how I can best describe Sarah. She didn’t touch only me, but many others from the looks of her Facebook page. She also coached many students in debate and encouraged them to think about the context of their use. She thought about others first and herself last, following the Golden Rule that many tend to overlook, including myself. Her care in her work and what she would entail in her emails created an awareness for me to watch for those same opportunities in my own life.

Since we interacted through emails, I never even knew the extent of her pain or how long she had actually fought her cancer. Perhaps she knew I would give her illness too much attention and we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our friendship like we would have otherwise.

But Wednesday morning, at the close of my mass media class, I happened to check my Facebook as a typical habit. When I saw the news, I felt like someone had taken a hammer to my heart, and then the effect of the shattering pieces of my heart overwhelmed me with tears. At that time, I was too shocked to cry.

A couple of months ago, I had seen her smiling lips but sagging eyes as she sat in a wheelchair in Maryland, trying to acquire her treatment. I had contacted her every few weeks before then, as I was worried about her when I hadn’t heard from her all year. It wasn’t like her to not talk to me, so I knew it was serious.

“You look so godly when you are at peace,” Sarah told me after we had met for the first and only time four years ago, and eaten lunch at Perkins in Fargo where she lived. When she commented her observation, I had Mari, her baby, on my lap. I don’t get much of a chance to be around children and, quite honestly, I don’t care much for them. But sometimes a few do tug at my heart as her daughter did four years ago. She was one of the rare cases in which being around her stirred more contentment and awareness of simple joys often overlooked. Her wide-eyed wonder in her big blue eyes also expressed her curiosity of the world, as young as she was. I am hoping some of Sarah will live on in Mari.

If anyone had a reason to complain, she did. But she never did. Instead, she sought for the positive aspects in her daily life, which helped her continue her fight for her life as well as her love for it. Part of it was in the time she sacrificed to others and gave them the fullest of her focus and her best of intentions. What I learned most from her is patience with myself, not only in my writing, but in my life as I engage with other people and seek to bring peace in the smallest ways I can.

I am planning on keeping in contact with her four-year-old daughter, Mari, in the years to come and hope a friendship grows. I would like to return the favor and empower her daughter as she gets older. I want to tell her about her mom, so she has some of her to hold onto.

Sarah is who I am most grateful for this Thanksgiving, and although we only had seven years to know each other, I treasure every email I still have from her and value the wisdom she shared. I will never forget how much she meant to me and will credit her with any future work put on those bookshelves.

One side note about the election – many of us wish someone else would have gotten into office. But perhaps this is a time to acknowledge how insensitive we tend to be toward each other and instead take note of every word or every action before we just let it out. The change starts small and we cannot look to a president to fix all the personal problems.

It is time to take responsibility for the little ways we can affect the immediate environment to ease the suffering around us. The work in even me is not done yet!

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