Just close the book.

My community lost a friend last week. It almost seems silly to call her a friend as we never had scheduled coffee, lunch, drinks or any of the things you normally do with a “friend.” Despite this, I can think of no other way to describe her except, “my friend.” It seems many in this town feel the same way since I keep hearing more and more people describe her and lament her loss in the same fashion I do.

She was 30 years my senior and her life had been filled with accomplishments and adventures that left her obituary (posted below) reading like most people’s bucket lists. She ran marathons before everyone ran marathons, played instruments, learned to fly a plane, and traveled to places like The Galapagos Islands because…”she just really wanted to see it.” This doesn’t even touch her professional accomplishments which were also amazing all the while being married almost 50 years and raising three children. The best part was that the only way I learned these things would be in the middle of a conversation where I would be blathering about something trivial and she would off handedly, with no pretension, slip in a factoid that would stop me in my tracks to ask more. She was fascinating to talk to and, to me, epitomized the famous line from Nelson Mandela’s speech that reads…

“There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

She really did shine as a human being and was a very inspiring individual, particularly to women. Whenever we saw each other at various social events we would chat about a variety of subjects but one of the most frequent was…”ok, what are you reading?” We both love books and would share our most recent “you MUST read…” recommendation with each other. I remember one time a couple of years ago when I was describing a book I was reading and I told her ” I’m really hating this book but I feel like I have to finish it.”

“That’s crazy,” she replied, ” life is too short to read bad books.”

I remember looking at her and feeling like someone just gave me permission to cheat on a test. A light bulb went on. WHY AM I taking something I adore doing and turning it into a chore??? Just stop. Close the book, move on. I realized when reading her obituary that her basic theory of life was to keep doing what you like. Move on. Try something new. I’m sure she was bogged down with the same responsibilities the rest of us are, maybe more. Who knows? Despite them, or maybe because of them she kept learning, kept trying new things. What an amazing example.

I hope I can encourage my daughters to live in such a way. The beauty of being human and alive is our ability to choose and change. This woman was such a great reminder to me to keep in mind that until my last day, I have a choice.

So, my dear daughters…Don’t keep the boyfriend that “has potential”, or the friend that makes you feel like crap about yourself. Don’t box yourself into a career, a hobby or mindset. Ask yourself DAILY what you love and keep doing it. Then ask yourself what you hate and stop doing it or at least make a plan to. The world is massive, the opportunities are endless, explore whatever lights you up. In the words of Mr. Magorium,

“Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.”

This woman did. Then she chose to exit quickly without warning to move on to her next adventure and in magnificent style chose a time of year that she could exit with fireworks blasting all around her. I would expect nothing less.

To finish my advice, I am certain she would want me to ask my children to please, never, never, waste time on a bad book. Life is indeed too short.

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/kansascity/obituary.aspx?n=sandy-russell&pid=165734853#fbLoggedOut

Comments

  1. Mary Castro says:

    Wow! Your writing about Sandy hit the nail on the head!! Thank you Suzy! What an inspiration she was and is as you are to me!

  2. What a charming anecdote Suzy. She sounds like an amazing woman.
    You recognizing and taking the time to acknowledge her achievements would have made her proud!
    Thank you for keeping us entertained with your wonderful, insightful and adventurous views on your life and the ones who surround you!

  3. Catherine T says:

    so beautifully written! I know her daughter, Beth, and she is an amazing woman. Now I know where she got her own zest for life – from her incredible mother! We should all be so fortunate to have a female presence in our own lives. Carpe Diem indeed!

    • Suzy Lake says:

      Thank you for your kind words. I don’t know Beth but was one of many overwhelmed with the beauty of HER words at the funeral. She was strong, funny, inspiring and genuine…yep, you’re right…just like her mom. 🙂

      • Mary Castro says:

        Well Suzy, you don’t realize it, but you are that kind of woman also! Mary

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Suzy Lake says:

        Mary, the funniest thing about you saying that, which means so much to me, is that if one of us (J and I) is trying to describe a woman we found amazing and inspiring we will often say… “Is she like Sandy and Mary?” Honest to God. 🙂

  4. Wonderful tribute…beautiful words.

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