As I struggle to come to grips with the death of yet another friend, I am confused. How can we prepare ourselves for death? How can we delay its approach? How can we live to our fullest potential?
Recently, a motivational speaker reminded delegates at a conference that I attended that God’s question to each of us will be “What did you do with the time and talent I gave you?” Will you respond with a long or short report? Will the explanations, excuses and disclaimers take longer than your listing of deeds?
These are some of the questions running through my mind as I ponder Wanda’s life and death. Wanda was a co-worker of mine for just over a year, so I didn’t know her extremely well. Like all of us, I believe Wanda had the usual mix of joy and sorrow, challenges and triumphs. Some days she was buoyant and bubbly, and on other days she was profoundly sad and silent.
Her proudest accomplishment was losing over 150 pounds. I never knew the overweight Wanda, though she did show me pictures. She was within a mere two pounds of her goal weight just before Christmas. The excitement was palpable to all of us as she brought in a pair of her old fat pants and revelled in the significance of what she was accomplishing. She hoped to get onto the Oprah Show with her story. I loved to watch her preen. With a new hair colour and style, funky new glasses, bold coloured clothing, and lots of jewellery, Wanda was enjoying her new body. I admired her courage and determination as she stayed strong in the face of the smorgasbord that often appeared in our lunchroom. I admired the fact that she went to the gym at 6:00 a.m. to get the exercise routine done before work.
Just as important as the changes she was making to her exterior was the work she was doing on her interior. She still had her share of problems, but she was working hard to honour herself. When I last saw her in February she was still looking, at age 38, for a man who would treat her as she deserved to be treated. I had become one of her confidants. My heart broke for her as she suffered pain and betrayal from a particular man in her life.
Her and I talked about what her ideal job would be. Though never a mother, she loved children. She hoped to take some courses and pursue an aide position in one of Vegreville’s elementary schools.
Though Wanda had a generous heart and bubbly nature, sometimes her interactions with others didn’t go well. When one such an encounter brought me to tears, a prompt and heartfelt apology got us back on track. We cried some more, we hugged and we vowed not to let some careless words on her part spoil our relationship. I am so glad today that we parted on good terms. Rest in peace, dear Wanda. You deserve it, from where I sit.
*Reprinted with permission