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.