An ode to an incredibly FEISTY woman

An incredibly fun, kind, caring, smart, bold and amazingly feisty woman passed away a couple of days ago.  As a second blog post, the topic of death and grieving wasn’t initially what I had set out to do- but the reality is, its all I can think about, and its important.

As a kid all the way through to the end of my twenties, I went to camp.  Anyone who has gone to camp for this long understands the kinds of relationships that happen there, for those that haven’t been to camp- its hard to describe the pace at which unbreakable friendships form under the circumstances there.  Camp is where I met Yarrow.

This article can explain this better than I ever can…

She played college basketball, just like me, and we had initially decided we would train together during the summer to come back better and stronger to our respective teams.  She was a small forward, and me a true big woman- but we were instant friends.  She was funny, cute, kind, and provided me with motivation through a lot of workouts- but also through a lot of challenges that summer.

As we continued our time together- I learned a lot about her (as you do sharing such close quarters, and doing everything together) including her multitude of athletic abilities.  She was a runner, a biker, a swimmer, a canoer (those really skinny canoes that you have to be super tough and careful to paddle in), a basketball player, and a triathlete.  She was always focused on her goals, revisiting them frequently and making sure everyone around held her accountable.  She was the first person I had met with such drive, and ambition, and it was infectious.  She made us all better, she made us all want to work harder, and she made everyone smile.

As the summer started, we realized she was also gifted with kids- her cabins and kids from sport sessions loved her, laughed their way through the weeks, and became better people from being around her, and cried when it was time to go home.  She changed so many lives.

For 3 years I was blessed by Yarrows presence at camp.  During the year we would all go back to our home and school lives, and be in touch from time to time (there was no facebook then… and we didn’t have cell phones… but I think ICQ was just making its break)… but when camp started up again, it was like nothing had changed- except we were a year older, maybe a little bit wiser- but just as excited to see one another.

Since then, we had both moved on, I became a teacher and then moved to Kenya, met a man, had a baby.  She did her degree in nursing, continued her many activities, met a man, had twins… and since facebook had come on the scene, we had stayed in touch from time to time, mostly to reminisce about the “good old days”- but also share the great things that had happened in our lives.

She was always the picture of health, activity, positivity, and life to me.  This is why 9 months ago I was really thrown by the news that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.  I remember thinking WHAT?!? HOW!?! It couldn’t be Yarrow- she had never done anything in her life to put her at risk.  She was put on an aggressive treatment plan, and headed into it as she did everything else- with an extremely positive attitude, and a feisty-ness that we all thought would be enough.

I should also say that I followed most of her journey through facebook, because I am far away- living in Kenya, but also because at this point we weren’t “active friends”… if that makes sense, like I didn’t go to her house on weekends, or we didn’t call each other on our birthdays even… but those 3 years at camp can’t be erased, and have left her as someone who I hold really nearly and dearly to my heart.

As we watched her journey- sending occasional notes of encouragement and support- I had always thought that if ANYONE could beat this- even if it was against the odds, it would be Yarr.  I have never been religious, but when my toddler recently started asking to pray at night, we would, and as she would list her family and friends I would think of Yarrow.

Monday morning when I woke up, my news feed was full of messages of condolences to her partner and sons, and personal messages on her facebook wall of familiar friends expressing the impact she had had on them.  I was overwhelmed with sadness and disappointment that this 33 year old powerhouse had been taken in such a cruel way.

The days since then, her facebook wall continues to get messages, which in the past I used to think was strange- but now it seems appropriate, and it brings me comfort to read them, and share in their messages.  I hope that her partner is looking to see the community of support, and using her wall to fill up on inspiration and stories to share with their young boys as they grow and have questions about their mom.   I know it will never be easy- but hopefully having this collage of impact will make some days a bit better.

As our long ago camp community reaches out to one another to make sense and figure out how to best honor Yarrow and her contributions and impact on each of us, I will keep reading her wall, and figuring out how to best let her know, and understand what her friendship meant to me.

In her 11th round of treatment- Yarrow posted a photo of herself holding a sign that read, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass- its about learning to dance in the rain”.  She couldn’t have been a more accurate representation of that to all of us.  Love you Yarr.


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