The title of my blog is Enjoy Life for a reason. Since college it has been my motto- to enjoy each and every moment…don’t fret the little stuff, for it will all work out in the end. The past few weeks I have spent many waking and sleeping moments admiring my all the intricate moments with my son Caleb and our newly formed family of 3 1/2 (Diesel is half human). Meanwhile I was losing a friend. In my moments of admiration and devotion to my family, her family was saying good-bye to a life filled with love, laughter and rigorous adventure. Last Saturday night near the time I was putting Caleb to bed, Tracy’s family reflected on their wonderful time together as her spirit escaped her and she would reach her final resting place. While her diagnosis was terminal, the news came of her death hit me like a sucker punch to the gut!
I have known of Tracy for a long time…her children were actively involved, her husband a Doctor in town, their family participated in many community events, in general they were always lending a hand. They were the family that people admired from afar. But during the fall of 2008, I got to know Tracy on a much deeper level. To skip the details, I had a long-standing shoulder injury that was looking like would need surgery for repair. Tracy was a Physical Therapist and prior to undergoing the knife, I thought I’d give her a try. Without any farting around, she got straight to the point, the muscles holding my shoulder in place were so weak that essentially my shoulder was “falling” out with no support to get back into place. Tracy stated it a bit differently “Heidi, I’m 50 years old and a heck of a lot stronger than you, so we need to beef it up and in the next 6 weeks (my next appointment with the orthopedic surgeon).” And that she did…she pushed me (or rather “tortured” as she liked to call it) and each week I could feel myself getting stronger. However, PT was more than just strengthening a loose shoulder, it was nearly an hour of sarcasm and stories that made me enjoy every minute! Physical Therapy became the highlight of my day thanks to Tracy.
There are a many things that make Tracy stand out. As I got to know Tracy, I recognized how inspirational she was. She treated me not just as a patient on her schedule, but as a friend. We shared stories of our animals- her selling a donkey on Craigslist and even how they acquired a donkey, to comparing notes about weddings (I just had my wedding 2 months before starting therapy and her daughter was married that same summer). We both attended the same church so we swapped stories on who was who, and what was new in the world of faith. We’d compare stories of having shorter husbands and dates that inevitably included a stop at Wal-Mart! She encouraged adventure, so when I asked if it was okay for me to go skiing over Christmas break, she quickly replied I don’t see why not, if it doesn’t hurt go ahead…to which I responded “good, cause I was going to do it anyway, but thought I’d at least ask.” We talked about music and teased the other therapists for their selections…turns out we had a common love of Bruce Springsteen. But one thing was true time and time again…Tracy was real! Someone who would share her thoughts, ideas, and practical jokes, as well as challenges and frustrations. I graduated from Physical Therapy with flying colors. I had made so much progress my right shoulder was now considerably stronger than the left. I also found a friend and co-conspirator in Tracy.
A few weeks later, I threw my back out and being a new found believer in physical therapy I immediately requested a referral to return. My first visit was not with Tracy, but after some assessment it was suggested I see her in future visits. Apparently I had reached celebrity status in that office, because my first appointment with Tracy I walked back, and Tracy shouts: “hey everyone, Heidi’s here” to which everyone responded “Heidi” like I was Norm walking into the bar on Cheers.
Tracy had a keen eye for detail that I neglected to mention earlier. During one visit she noticed my cute shoes and pointed them out to others in the office. Following that appointment it became routine for her to immediately check out my shoes. As I began my exercises during one appointment she pointed out her frightfully old-lady looking shoes. Of course my response was “Tracy, those are hideous.” Tracy’s response stirred unrest in me as she said “I know, but it’s kind of the mood I’m in.” She went on to share that the fungal or bacterial infection she’d been struggling with in her lung turned out to be cancer. WTF. Tracy was the epitome of health. I may have even said those things aloud as the shock severed my body numb. I tried to respond with sarcasm and humor as she played along. She shared the time line from lung biopsy to sharing the news with their children. While many would resort to self-pity and despair, her response was “Aren’t I lucky!”
In the coming weeks and months I would see them out and about and immediately point out my cute shoes. In a card I received from Tracy, she noted that she threw out those old-lady shoes, life was too short for ugly shoes! Shortly thereafter at a Chamber of Commerce event I ran into her husband, and once again pointed out my cute shoes. I asked him to share with Tracy that I had a new pair of cute shoes and wasn’t about to let her down. His response was “well, here let me take a picture” promptly he pulled out his flip phone and snapped a shot of my shoes, bent down at floor level to get the perfect angle. Each time I ran into her at church we would throw our feet up in the air and point out the cute shoes we were wearing. It didn’t matter that it might be the middle of a song it mattered that we were wearing cute shoes. So yesterday, as I shared my sorrow with her husband, he asked my shoe size…he thought it would be fitting for me to stop by and choose a few cute pairs. Suddenly I felt Tracy smile and snicker a bit and it seemed okay.
Prior to the funeral yesterday, I held onto Caleb for several hours, recognizing that one week ago while I studying my new found love, the Rasor family was doing the same thing with their mom. Trying to remember every detail, every memory, every laugh and cry that they could forever seal into their memories. The circle of life seems so unfair to me. When I finally laid my son down in the final minutes as I walked out the door I had to let go of him for an hour, but my memories of him would last a lifetime. No matter how prepared we think we are, or how great the hands are that hold our loved ones near, letting go is the hardest part.
Tracy’s celebration of life was exactly that- a recount of the moments shared together with song and dance, pictures and laughter. It was the most beautiful way to draw an end to her time on earth and by the standing room only in and around the church it was a true testament to what Tracy would want us to do…Enjoy Life!