I still remember it like it was yesterday, my ex had called around midnight to tell me she was gone...no words can really express the sadness that came over me and has never left after I lost I feel like the biggest mentor of my life, Janet Libel. I never had dealt with the true understanding of loss and grief up until that point in my life, and it will always be the first one I feel like I lost without saying goodbye. Granted I wasn't part of the family, nor even her child or nephew or niece, but in the five years I knew her, she made a huge impact on my life.
I remember the first time I had met her it was at the Hiawatha pool while I was 17, a lifeguard, and had just graduated from high school and heading to K-State. She was with little Maddi and Lindsay, her daughters whom I had met a few weeks earlier while watching my ex's little brother Jordan's baseball game. She was also with her sister-in-law, Lora, and her little girl, Naomi. Wow, has time changed when I look at how much all of these "little ones" have grown up since then. I could have talked to Janet for hours and it was the first day I met her; she just had that way about her. So funny and always up for going out of her way to make you feel special.
I learned of how her and her husband, Pat, used to babysit my ex when they were a young couple, teach him how to ride horses, show him a thing or two about driving a truck and genuinely be involved in his life. She just was that type of mother, never missing a football or cheer practice, baseball game, volleyball match, whatever it was, she was there watching and being the biggest cheerleader for her four children.
She also married into the Catholic church. I think that was the biggest takeaway I had from her. She had a quiet, unrelenting belief in God and His love for us. She taught me to have a relationship with the Lord through prayer even if the church doesn't teach it, to always expect good to happen and things happen for a reason. She also made sure I didn't feel bad for who I was and how I was raised in the church even though I was dating someone outside the church at the time. And once again, she was the first to be the volunteer at any activity at St. Benedict's.
Janet was diagnosed with breast cancer about two years before I started dating my ex. It was in between my sophomore and junior years of college that she started to get really sick. She was a fighter though and we really thought she had beat it for about a year. Then it came back very aggressive in all parts of her body. But the biggest thing about Janet was she NEVER gave up. She never wanted to leave her children and fought so hard to be here for them. It was her body that gave out on her not her will to fight.
Her funeral was almost unbearable to get through, but I will tell you I have never seen such an outpouring of love for someone than at her rosary and funeral. You see, St. Benedict's is out in the middle of a corn field south of Bendena, Kan. People were lined up out of the church, down the steps, across the church lawn, and clear down the entire section of the cornfield to say their last goodbye to her. All of the guys wore pink too! It would have made her laugh and I'm sure say a funny joke or two about how no one needed to fuss over her. I'm still thankful my brother could come that day to help me get through it.
There are so many other memories of her...and even though lots of "stuff" has happened between then, both good and bad, I know she is still teaching me to be a better follower of Christ, sister, daughter and future wife and mother.
Long story short, it will be less than a month from now that I remember her last day with us, Sept. 12. It is very bittersweet for me because it is my niece's birthday (and that was an incredibly emotional day for me too) and the day Janet left this world to be with her Lord and Savior. I can't bring myself to be a part of the Relay for Life in Doniphan County any more, but I try to do my best to honor her with other things.
This past weekend one of my best high school friends, Mallory Sheeran, ran the Race for the Cure with me in Kansas City. Talk about an emotional high the entire morning. It was so energetic, fun and uplifting to know others have dealt with the same loss but are fighting to find a cure. One man I ran behind at about mile 2 totally made me break down and bawl because of his tribute to his wife on the back of his t-shirt. It said, "In loving memory, XXX, I cannot wait to find this cure and be walking beside you in paradise soon enough." Wow, it all came full-circle at that point, and the sadness came over me from losing Janet, but I truly with every fiber in my being and as hokey as it sounds believe she was helping me run that day. It was the best time I've ever had, the most fun I've ever had, the best I've ever felt; it was just an amazing day. And I'm so glad I could do something small to keep honoring her.
|Sorry this is sideways, but my tribute to Janet on race day.|
They played this as the last song at her funeral...
She’s in the kitchen at the crack of dawn
Bacon’s on, coffee’s strong
Kids running wild, taking off their clothes
If she’s a nervous wreck, well it never shows
Takes one to football and one to dance
Hits the Y for aerobics class
Drops by the bank, stops at the store
Has on a smile when I walk through the door
The last to go to bed, she’ll be the first one up
And I thought I was tough
She’s strong, pushes on, can’t slow her down
She can take anything life dishes out
There was a time
Back before she was mine
When I thought I was tough
We sat there five years ago
The doctors let us know, the test showed
She’d have to fight to live, I broke down and cried
She held me and said it’s gonna be alright
She wore that wig to church
Pink ribbon pinned there on her shirt
No room for fear, full of faith
Hands held high singing Amazing Grace
Never once complained, refusing to give up
And I thought I was tough....