My Name is Sarah

MY NAME IS SARAH. I am a quilt designer and the sewcial director of Sarah's Sewcial Lounge. I also have a business called Down Right Charming. I sell my quilts mostly on etsy and I make pillowcases to donate to patients in the hospital in memory of my friend Kristen Kirton. I am a young adult living with Down syndrome. I hope you enjoy reading about my life journey.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Grieving for a Stranger

Jennifer L. Healy
9/4/1978 ~ 1/31/2011

by Joyce...I have a love hate relationship with Facebook. On many days, I see it as nothing but a time waster. On other days I love the connections one can make. Last night being a great example. A friend from grade school recently posted our class picture from 6th grade. She tagged a few students she knew. I'm still not sure how Facebook determines what it will allow others to see, but after the store closed I came upstairs and checked, of all things, Facebook. I noticed a photo of a young woman with Down syndrome as the profile picture of one of my classmates who had been tagged in this sixth grade photo. I'm not Fb friends with her, but was able to click on the comments and quickly realized the picture was her sister and she had recently passed away. My heart sunk. I did not remember this friend, whose name is Ellen, having a sister with Down syndrome. But then, would I have paid attention to that back then? I shudder to think I would have been that uncaring.
I clicked on Ellen's profile and was able to see her photos. She had posted many of her sister Jenny. She looked like a happy girl who loved her family and loved to dance. My heart sunk a little further. It is obvious from the photos that she will be deeply missed. I'm not sure if Ellen will remember me, but I sent her a little note. And then I moved on to some paper work that needed attended too.
Only I couldn't concentrate. I could not stop thinking about Ellen and her family. I wondered if they still lived in our hometown. So I signed onto the Cantonrep. website. Sure enough. There was the obituary. I was able to determine that Jenny was born the September after we graduated high school. That would make her 32. I let that sink in. She was only one decade older than Sarah. I have not seen Ellen in a very long time, I've never met Jenny. But we all belong to the same club. I felt myself grieving for a perfect stranger.
I read through the comments people had posted on the obituary. I was able to quickly piece things to together. She loved coloring books and markers, loved to dance, enjoyed eating at Panera, was a shinning light to many. She was included in a classroom at Avondale Elementary school. She attended the same high school I did. She either works at the 30th Street Giant Eagle grocery store or frequently shops there. She was preceded in death by her father. How hard that must have been. I wonder if she possibly had heart issues as the family has asked, in lieu of flowers, for contributions to go to the American Heart Association. Lastly, I read she passed away at the Cleveland Clinic after a brief illness.
All of a sudden Jenny was no longer a stranger. She was just like my Sarah. And I was able to put myself in Jane's shoes. Jane has just lost a daughter. Her constant companion. Her traveling pal. Her Panera partner. I had tears streaming down my checks. I can't imagine the sorrow. The extreme loss this family feels.
Jenny's service was today. I thought about that all afternoon. I thought about her family. Her sister. Her other siblings. I'd like my former classmate, her mom and her family to know there are others who are thinking of them. Praying for their strength and comfort. Strangers, yet one of the family.


JRS said...

Exactly. Strangers, yet one of the family. News has been particularly sad lately and I've had similar thoughts about fb. Yet, with all the support and wealth of knowledge that we gain by connecting through the wonders of the internet, we must accept the grief as well. I think, the more of us that lift each other up in the bad times, the more the pain is diffused. But yes, it is hard.

Carol N. said...

Thanks for that beautifully written post, Joyce.

We're strangers united by the very special ones we love.

Groves said...

"Empathy - your pain in my heart."

I am sure it would touch this family deeply to know how much you care.

And I wish that I had cared as much about hurting people before so much pain came into our lives. What was I doing before!?

Thank you, always, for sharing your heart and your Sarah.

Cathy in Missouri

Cindy said...

Joyce, I have a book of Poems written by our Senoir Class. Didn't pay attention to one titled I Love One with Broken Wings. A classmate had a brother with Down Syndrome. I've tried to locate her but haven't yet. I love the way your put that, Strangers, yet one of the family.

We will be praying for Jennifer's family.

Bethany said...

Aww, none of us are strangers in this life of Down syndrome. We are family and that is why it hurts so bad, especially in a situation like this. I'm so sorry, Joyce. Praying for their family. :(

Katie :o) said...

Beautiful post. I feel the grief, too, and can not imagine the pain of losing someone so special. Especially as I picture my 13 year old extra-special kiddo...

Lucy said...

I don't usually comment but I almost always read your blog. I felt compelled to comment today. My birthday is on 9/4/1978 and my daughter Lucy (5) has Down syndrome. I'm 32 and also love to dance and am a huge Panera fan. A connection with this soul and her family.