Ten years ago I was the teacher for two year olds in the blue room on Saturday afternoons. In that room I first met Shelby who was undeniably the most advanced two year old I had ever encountered. She talked my ear off while the other babies played. Shelby introduced me to her mom, Jennifer and I was immediately drawn the woman who was raising this remarkable little girl. A few weeks after they started attending our church, Shelby was mistakenly placed in the red two year old room and Shelby made it clear that was not happening. With her little heels dug firmly in the carpet, she obstinately refused to enter that classroom, demanding to stay with me instead. I opened the door and claimed her as one of mine, to the dismay of leadership at the time. I saw Jennifer exhale deep relief and we became fast friends. Just a few weeks later, I asked her if she would be willing to help me out in the classroom sometime and from there, we started finding excuses to get our girls together so we could visit beyond the church and get to know each other better.
Jennifer was the cool mom who balanced my strict schedules and homemade dinners. Being a single working mom helped her gain the proper perspective she needed to enjoy motherhood. I learned a lot about relaxing and having fun with my kids from watching her, even though she threatened me with CPS for not exposing my children to Chuck E. Cheese or McDonald's. Those play dates with Jennifer and Shelby are still some of Kate's sweetest childhood memories; however, I may have fibbed a bit about Jen being the only one with the secret code to get into those places. I am simply not as much fun as Jen. I likely never will be because her heart was so much bigger than mine.
Seven years ago we were blessed with the addition of a star wars loving little boy who stole Jen's heart. She challenged Ty to light saber duels, located ornaments for his tree and shared stories about characters with him. He thinks she was my coolest friend. He is right. She was one of a kind.
As Jen battled for her health these last couple of years, her strength and perseverance have stood out to me repeatedly. There have been seasons I have felt defeated or scared for her as she quietly endured whatever ailment threatened her at the moment. But she remained strong and determined, never wavering in her desire to overcome.
Despite her will to remain with us and to finish raising the beautiful Shelby, her challenges were too great. My heart is broken. The world simply was a better place with Jen in it.
Rest easy my beautiful friend. I love you.