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Two years ago today, April 15th, 2007, the world lost a beautiful, amazing, kindred soul, and we, a friend. Two years ago today. I'd like to set aside this corner of the blogosphere for her today, and share with you a little bit about Rachel. As I type this, I'll try to hold back the tears.
Every now and again, you meet someone that reminds you of yourself.. a little bit. And, that person reminds you of what is potentially better about yourself, that you weren't aware of.
It was 2004, and all the Fall '04 Darden students and their spouses were gathered on the top of a parking deck, waiting to load up for the big Camping Trip that would kick off our two years in Charlottesville, and forever bond us to one another through tents, hiking treacherous terrain, flip-cup, campfires, and speed-friending. My husband ushered me over to meet Rachel and her husband. She smiled shyly, and I remember thinking how sweet and nice she seemed, and yet.. there seemed to be so much more.
There was. Over the course of two years, we "partners" (some weren't spouses yet) grew close. We met for weekly knitting and wine (mostly wine. I never did get the hang of knitting.) We traveled together. We saw each other weekly, bi-weekly, often several times a week with various events, get-togethers and parties (both obligatory and not.) It was a very condensed, but very real bonding of friendships.
No, I didn't have the privilege of knowing her my entire life, or even most of my life. But I feel as if I met and got to know Rachel in the stage of our lives where we finally discovered who we were becoming, as women, as wives, as people. That delicate stage between "single working" world and "now kids have taken over" world. The beautiful place called (spouse is in) "graduate school."
If you'd met Rachel on the street, you might notice a few things right away. . that she was beautiful. She was probably smiling. She empathized with your situation-whatever it was, and that she cared. But what you couldn't see from the outside was her tremedous selfless spirit and generosity. In her own time of need, she reached out to comfort others. She sought the good in people, and reminded you, by doing so, to do the same. She asked the best of herself.
She had an amazing singing voice, could beat the pants off of any man playing soccer, ran marathons, was a very serious student who went on to get a graduate degree in Social Work, and she loved her dogs. More, she loved everyone with her whole heart.
That, really, is what brings tears to my eyes while I type this. I feel like there are a few other people in my life that love with every fiber of their beings.. who are truly alive because of it. Rachel was one of those people.
Two years ago today she was taken from us forever, a fact alone that took a very long time to register with me.
The phone call started out harmlessly. It was a mutual friend, a good friend I hadn't caught up with in a while. I was yammering on about how our baby shower had gone, how everyone was so happy, things were great, wonderful. Pause. She'd asked if we'd talked to Rachel's husband? No, why? She didn't know how to say it, and I didn't know what was coming.
It was a driving rain.. there was very little visibility. Another truck involved. A car accident.
"Colleen... she didn't make it. She died."
We had just seen her a few weeks' prior. She was 31.
I remember thinking, as my hand was caught in mid-air, that I was looking down a tunnel. I could see all the way through the tunnel to the end - the grief, that I would someday, at some point, understand. Accept the gravity of what she had just said. But right now they were just words.
Just words hanging in mid-air, nobody really understanding what meaning they had. Nothing made sense and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
I would estimate 1,000 people came to the memorial service, held at the chapel where she was wed. I tend to exaggerate, but there were people from all over her life, far and wide, by plane and by car, any means necessary. It was a celebration of a life full of beauty, full of happiness, full of the richness of life. The true richness of a life, celebrated, mourned, and never forgotten.
The most remarkable thing, as I wet my keyboard with tears, is that her memory will live on in her giving spirit with the Rachel Haberkern Sherman Memorial Scholarship, for which hundreds of thousands of dollars has been raised. If you've been moved by what you read, please visit the site. Her memory will live on in perpetuity because of generosity.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Please, no comments (see note at the end.)