How do you sum up a life? I've been working on this tribute since Leslie left for her home in Heaven, but it's so hard to know exactly what to write. The words have come time and time again in my head, but when I try to apply them to paper (or here on this blog) they just seem so jumbled...they don't do justice...and many times I've thought, I should just keep my thoughts and feelings tucked inside, close to my heart and cherish them...but when someone touches your life the way, Leslie, touched not only my life, but the lives of countless others, you just can't keep it to yourself...it must be shared.
So after some intense thought and much prayer, I have decided that the best way to honor her memory, is to not just make one tribute, but to share her with you, my readers, often and over the course of many posts. Anytime memories come, lessons were learned, love shared...I'll be sure be sure to share them here.
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind or heart that Leslie is sitting in a righteous place in Heaven. She influenced a great many people in her lifetime. She knew she was on her way to Heaven and she made sure she'd take a lot of others along with her. I personally, don't know of anyone else, who did so much to influence the Kingdom of God. Yes, we're all familiar with the likes of big name Preachers and Evangelists, who have done tremendous things to influence the world for Christ, but this lady wasn't known in this way, but what she did in her life, impacted everyone she ever came in contact with. She was a true living example of what the hands and feet of Christ were like her on this earth. I know that when she reached the Throne Room of Heaven, God would have joyously said, "Well done, My good and faithful servant, well done!" I'm sure she even got God to "Happy Dance" with her...she was just that kind of infectiously joy-filled person.
"I Love You"
Now I don't want to paint her as a "perfect person" because she'd be the first one to tell you that she was far from perfect. All humans are flawed. But she knew she was a forgiven person...and that makes all the difference. When you're forgiven by God, you don't even have to worry about being perfect.
Leslie always lived a life of thankfulness and in all ways she exemplified this. I will never forget when she and I first met...at our first of what turned out to be, many cards/notes, emails, chats and phone calls...when I was chosen to be her ChemoAngel in February 2008. My introductory card/letter was written to her on Valentine's Day...which over the years became known as our "Friend-iversary". (As a ChemoAngel volunteer, we're matched with a cancer patient and weekly send cards/letters of support and encouragement to them throughout their cancer journey. It is NOT a pen pal service...we take on these assignments knowing that there is no obligation on the cancer patient's end to ever contact their angel.) So you can imagine my surprise...okay, shock...when a week after my introductory letter, I received a card in the mail from Leslie, thanking me in advance for what I was agreeing to do for her. She wanted me to know the depth of her thankfulness while she was still feeling well, (her chemo treatment wouldn't begin until the end of that month), and to let me know that she felt such a connection to me through my introduction. From that moment forward, Leslie and I forged a friendship like no other. It went way beyond the normal ChemoAngel/Patient relationship...I should know, I've been doing this for 10 years and this is the first, and only, time a relationship like this has come about. (I've become friends with all my ChemoAngel buddies...and I stay in touch with many of them to this very day...and have seen the 'ripple' effect a little kindness shown at a time of such trauma has had...but this superseded all of that.) I was never able to put my finger on it, until just the other day, when God spoke to my heart as I was writing to a few other friends (who I met as a result of my friendship with Leslie). God said, "What I have forged in Heaven will endure for all time." So not only do I rest in the fact of knowing that the friendship God forged between Leslie and I will endure for all time, but so will the 'ripple effect' friendships that happened as a result of all of us knowing Leslie and becoming interconnected with one another through her.
We always marveled at the strength and depth of the friendship we had, despite the fact that we never had the opportunity to meet face-to-face in this world. We found out together how deep affections for others could grow through praying for one another. God was always teaching us these kinds of lessons.
Leslie wanted to come to Pennsylvania to meet me, especially in the fall to see the beautiful fall leaves...I smile as I think of this. Her desire to see the fall foliage here, motivated me to do the craziest thing: package up beautiful fall leaves from my back yard and mail them to her to enjoy. I didn't just do this once...I did it two years in a row! The first year it was done, while she was in treatment for her melanoma, as a way to brighten up her day. The second year, it was done to not only brighten up her day (she wasn't in treatment the second year) but it was so she could share the colored leaves with her little side-kick...her much anticipated, much loved grandson, Tyler - whom she most graciously shared with all her friends through (almost) daily photos on her blog. It was Leslie's great desire to get through her latest treatment and come east when she treatment was completed...which would have been in October (just about the right time for fall leaves!).
She often talked about our first meeting and how "grand and glorious" she wanted it to be. She was true to her word - it was and will be "grand and glorious". What do I mean "was" and "will be"? At the exact time that Leslie went to be Jesus, she stopped by my house. I learned of her passing about 30 minutes after the fact...and at the moment she would have left for Heaven, there was a rainbow over my back yard! That's the "was" of our "was and will be" meeting. The "will be" portion? Well, that will come when she greets me as I make my journey to Heaven...and it will be grand, it will be glorious, and most importantly...it will be forever! There won't be any short visits, no having to go back home after a week's visit, no missing one another until the next trip...it will be a daily visit, every day for all eternity. It can't get any more "grand and glorious" than that.
She Loved the Beach
I could go on and on about the wonderful attributes of this phenomenal woman and what she meant to me...those things will come, in bits and pieces. I just know that I am the person I am today because my life was intermingled with hers. For that, I'm forever thankful.
While my heart is still hurting at not having her in this physical world anymore, I cling to the HOPE of the future. Leslie was the "Queen of HOPE"...she had HOPE in God, she had HOPE in faith, she had HOPE in all good things, she had HOPE in belief...and she made all those around her hold on to HOPE as well. I loved her acronym for HOPE - Helping Other People Endure. She was all about helping others endure whatever they were dealing with and instilling in them HOPE for the outcome of those situations.
So often we hear of what people take from this life, but when it comes to Leslie, we are hearing about what she brought to this life and what she brought to the lives of those she touched. So as you can see, there is no way one single tribute can sum up her life. Stop back often, because her lessons...her love...her kindnesses...her memory will continue to fill the pages of my blog...so stay tuned.