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Thursday, January 2, 2014

person of 2013

Two days late in announcing my 2013 person of the year.  
As I have been sitting reading Time's last issue of 2013, I have been thinking about who I would nominate for Person of the Year if Time would ask my opinion for their cover boy or girl. 
Of course, Pope Francis is a super choice. The more I read about the humble example he's setting, his values; challenging the 'haves' about their priorities, and choosing to hang out with the 'havenots', I'm impressed by an example not unfamiliar to anyone who has read the Good Book. 
I decided though, to reflect on someone closer to home - not literally in my current case - but someone who I know. It's actually a difficult decision. Either I know too many brilliant, inspiring, creative, hard-working people...or too few. I personally think it's the former. Not to name drop (I won't be naming any names anyways) but I actually know some pretty cool people, friends who I could actually call and not just 'like' on Facebook, who I truly respect and look up to.  
For example: Courageous former refugees working their tails off to survive in a new country and those who are encouraging them; a Canadian best-selling recording artist (is it platinum now, Kim?) who takes none of the money for herself; nurses nursing new babies and the broken-hearted; a 'soon-to-be' theologian (in my opinion) who thinks and challenges first herself and then the rest of us; a truly interesting folky, radio host who is the picture of perseverance while smiling; the stressed-out, tired but incredibly diligent dads who keep going...to bring home the bacon, or deer sausages; and the amazing parents to toddlets, twins and teens, who manage to do 18 things with only 2 hands all the while raising really nice kiddies. By trying to better the world with more peacemakers, healthier bodies, deeper souls, and less fracking, you inspire me to make more out of my life. 
So, ironically my choice for 2013's Person of the Year is a fighter. A daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, a mother and a powerhouse. In a body as lean and agile as a gazelle, I think I can safely say that anyone who saw her this past year stands in awe of her. I won't name her only because I know her well enough to know that what she did she did for the sole purpose of surviving and not for attention.   
This devoted mom of four young adults started 2013 sick, really really sick. I haven't talked to her about this and so I won't disrespect her by assuming to know how she felt. I will only write about what I know. I know that throughout a good chunk of the year she was undergoing chemotherapy, that she was recovering from multiple surgeries, that she tried to wear positivity like a comforting blanket which I think her mother passed down to her, that she had the unwavering support of her family, and that she did it all while riding a bike. 
She rode hundreds (surely thousands) more miles on her bike than I did, and "is in better shape while undergoing chemo than me, a perfectly healthy, much younger person" her sister wrote me.  
There is a lot we all know about the power of positive-thinking, prayer, being active, eating healthy, blah, blah, blah. All super important and valid. But, what I think is so inspiring about my person of the year is that she actually did these things. She charged ahead at full speed, wearing lycra and a helmet, up mountains of courage and pereverance, through valleys of fear and feeling crappy, and across foothills of strength and life-embracing zeal. Everyone wants to live, and I have no doubt that everyone handles an illness the best way they can, but this wonder woman, and I have known her since I was six years old, is a charger, a tackler, not in an agressive rugby-playing way (that's her sister), but in a 'let's just do it' way.  
She set her sights on marrying "a rock and just an amazing partner... a great man", as her sister accurately descibed him last spring; she recognized a beautiful piece of land, perfect for a perfect home and set off to build it with her own two hands (plus a couple of others); she home-schooled her four children who have actually all gone on to university (my children would end up penniless wrecks); and a host of other awe-inspiring, and frustratingly-perfect-for-us-normal-folks examples. 
Like a bull in a china shop, but with grace, birkenstocks and a gentle spirit she charged through this most difficult year, and as a far-off bystander, I have been encouraged, inspired, even though the roles should be reversed. She has bigger things to think about than being a role model. 
No one of us knows how long we are here for, another five minutes or 50 years. As someone who has watched her mother and a dear friend lose their battle to breast cancer within the past six years , I have spent more than a few minutes thinking about how to prevent my brother from having to endure another female death in his family. I won't lie; it scares me. 
What I do know is that getting cancer seems like a big crapshoot...some get hit, others not, whether you're an eco, all-natural, ever-positive, happy person or an athlete or a smoker or not. Nobody can predict who will and who won't, it's like being in a car accident. Just yesterday I saw two crotchety old people, who looked about 95, both smoking away, looking for the beach. They will probably live a whole lot longer...although maybe they were only 50.  
It really seems like a battle, a war. Family needs to rally, gathering supplies and energy and the fighter needs to prepare (somehow) mentally to pick up the sword of courage and charge. Whether with a bicycle or a research project to improve the environment, or scrapbooks for the kids, or showering loved ones with gifts of laughter and shoes, I hope that if or when such a time comes I will be ready to fight the battle with the courage and grace that I have as examples before me.  
This person of the year has faced cancer, not floating down the river which is flowing close to me as I write this on a beach in Egypt, but charging through it like a bull in a china shop. And, she makes me want to charge my healthy 'ol self through life more. Not that I'm doing that yet; like so many things I know are good for me, I don't do them. That is why I tip my hat to her...she did and is doing the things that are good for her. She is praying, loving, laughing, riding. She is my great example to not just stroll through life complacently...but to pedal.
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