This past weekend I attended the services for a twelve year-old girl from our school who passed away after a month-long illness including extensive hospitalization. It was a terrifically sad event. My heart broke to pieces when I heard the news of her death. She's one of those kids at school that everyone knows.
My heart stitched back together a bit at seeing her sixth-grade (and other middle-school) classmates at her services, the way they supported one another, their somber vigil. They had decided ahead of time that it was important that they be there through the whole visitation. And now they are deep in the planning for a remembrance for their classmate, via the cause that meant so much to her - the Red Wolf Coalition.
In the announcements to the parents at our school as well as via the funeral home and obituary, this girl's passion for the cause of the red wolf was mentioned "in lieu of flowers." It would mean so much to her to know that her friends and family are choosing to honor her memory with donations to this organization.
My children knew this young woman from school, though neither were particularly close to her (2 and 5 years apart in school.) But in that way that seven year-olds have of breaking your heart with their laser-keen clarity and old-soul nature, my daughter's concerns in the days following the announcement of this death were centered on her own mortality.
With two close friends battling different kinds of cancer on each coast, and my daughter's existential crisis, I find myself thinking - what is my "in lieu of flowers" cause?
It turns out I didn't have to look far for the answer to my own question. This morning was my close friend's inaugural meeting as a La Leche League Leader, and I was able to proudly applaud her as she introduced herself to a room full of moms and babies who came for information and support about breastfeeding.
I had occasion to mention to the moms today that they can call or email any of us Leaders if they need help with something between our monthly meetings. "It's what we do." I said. And it is. Helping moms and babies helps heal the broken parts of my soul, the parts that still ache for this young woman's family, that feel the fear my daughter feels about her own life. The parts that aren't sure about anything but this one woman, this one baby, and helping them find their way through their own unique breastfeeding journey.
So there you have it. If I die suddenly and you're heartbroken and unsure of what to do - support causes like your local La Leche League group that helps new moms and babies. And throw some cash in the direction of your local library and animal shelter, too, while you're at it.
What's your "in lieu of flowers" cause? If you don't have one, I think you should adopt this young woman's cause, the Red Wolf Coalition. It's what she would have wanted you to do.
Lots and lots of peonies.