A Phoenix Burning

Courage is Not the Absence of Fear, but the Will to Go On Despite It

I decided that today would be the day to exorcise this post from my mind and heart. Not knowing what to say or how to say it has kept me mute on the subject, but it’s important that I find the words.

A little over three weeks ago, a woman named Jennifer Perillo lost her young husband suddenly to a heart attack leaving her to raise her two young daughters on her own. I have never met Jennifer. I had never even heard of her before a re-tweet came over my Twitter feed mentioning this terrible circumstance and urging people to keep her and her daughters in their thoughts and prayers. I followed the trail and wound up visiting her blog for the first time  and read this post.  I don’t follow many food bloggers, but I do follow our friends Ivoryhut from The Ivory Hut and Jennifer from Bread and Putter  so I have a little window into the food blogosphere. I was immediately taken by the outpouring of initial support being sent Jennifer’s way, and although I refused to “Follow” her (not wanting to intrude as a stranger in her time of crisis) I instead became a “stalker” of her Twitter feed (probably no better,) checking in once a day, hoping she was surviving, hoping to see evidence of healing, sending an anonymous prayer her way.

Everytime I visited her page was a scraping of a wound I don’t own…my husband is alive and well, my children are healthy and are blessed to have both their parents with them. So why does the plight of this stranger strike me so personally? I believe it is because she is living one of my worst fears…I am constantly concerned about the toll that my husband’s job takes on him and the stress he lives under 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even vacations are not vacations, as he checks in daily and is on-call should some proverbial “crap hit the fan” which it does more often than not. At times he sleeps with his Blackberry in his hand so he doesn’t miss an important alert. He takes much better care of his family and his job than he takes of himself, and I find my mind wandering to the “Whatif” scenarios more often than is good for me. Jennifer’s story and the posts she has poured her emotions into have struck a little too close to home…I can’t help but think, “That could be me.”  The strength she is exhibiting is an inspiration; her courage, palpable; her pain, excruciating to witness.

But something else is stirring within and around this story. It is a story of hope, community, generosity, and resilience…in short, the best of humanity.

What I have watched unfold over the past few weeks is truly flabbergasting. From the depths of Jennifer’s despair has arisen an incredible and highly charged wave of good. Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes comes a powerful and highly sustainable new organization, Bloggers Without Borders, charted by our very own Erika Pinheda-Ghanny (The Ivoryhut) and her friend Maggie Keet (Three Many Cooks.) Erika was the recipient of the goodness of people (known and unknown) across the blogosphere one year ago when her home was completely destroyed by a fire. She has now gathered this force behind her to help others, paying it forward in a HUGE way. This fledgling organization has raised over $63,000 in less than three weeks which will go to Jennifer and her girls to help defray the many initial costs that the death of the primary breadwinner in a family leaves. Absolutely amazing and incredibly inspirational! More evidence that all is not lost in a time when negativity runs rampant.

I have no words of comfort for Jennifer, or for any others dealing with such a bone and soul deep loss. My Mother has always said, “You deal with what you’re given and survive it because there IS no other choice.” My grandmother has always said, “Life is for the living” and makes it clear that we should not mourn for those who have passed, but for ourselves who are faced with the task of living here without them. I come from women of strength and am determined to face whatever God has in store for me and mine with the same attitude of survival. I tell my girls all the time that we are strong women, and no matter what happens, I expect great things from them. I tell them to live, and that we mustn’t dwell in the land of “Whatifs” for it is a dangerous place to be.

I admit that following Jennifer’s story has forced me to take a personal venture into the land of “Whatifs” but believe I have emerged from that little detour with a stronger spirit, determined to take a little more advantage of the small quiet moments when life is……….well, when “Life” simply “is.” After 18 years of marriage I have a renewed determination to take nothing for granted, even the simple comfort of the hand held under the pillow at night. The “gift of an Ordinary Day” is sacred, and I will continue my prayers for Jennifer that she will find a new ordinary that is not only peaceful, but joyful.

I am highlighting Bloggers Without Borders in my Blogroll.  I encourage you all to do the same for we are stronger united. I look forward to watching, participating, and spreading the word.

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”
-Frank Herbert

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

"Waiting for the Re-Mergence"

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6 responses

  1. How perfectly said. I feel like I could have written this post myself, although it probably wouldn’t have been as beautifully eloquent if I had. I missed meeting Jennifer in person when my sister and I went to the Big Summer Potluck in July – I think! Honestly I met so many food bloggers there I don’t remember everyone I met. I feel the same ache, have the same fears you do (hubby is a police officer, is overweight and heart disease killed his father) yet I try everyday to live without fear. I’m always saying a life lived in fear is not a life worth living.

    September 4, 2011 at 8:26 am

  2. Beautifully said. I fear for my husband who works non-stop -yesterday until 1 a.m. – calls at 3 and 4 a.m. – no rest, gone for three days to work non-stop during hurricane (not life saving work – IT work for a Japanese bank) colon cancer hot on his trail – if something happens to him – I will be left to raise a child with autism alone- and while I’m doing it now – technically alone – I won’t have his text messages, his voice on the phone, his body in our bed and least of all but important nonetheless his salary paying our bills — Jennie’s reality would haunt me even if this weren’t the case. I firmly believe that we are nothing if we don’t take care of each other. About the time that Mikey died, we decided that within a year we would change our lives – look for a B&B to purchase, spend time together, enjoy what precious time we have and that is our goal – to live and to continue to help and care for others who are in need.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:10 am

  3. Beautifully written. I can’t even begin to imagine the nightmare that Jennie is going through but at the same time am inspired and am in awe of what Erika and Maggy have done and what the food blogging community has done. My mother-in-law kind of says the same thing, she says that when we cry when we lose a loved one, we are not crying for them but for ourselves.

    September 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm

  4. You echo a fear many of us have. I would be paralyzed if I thought about the ‘whatifs’. My husband is my best friend and soulmate…I’d be lost without him. We try to spend each day present in each other’s company. It’s all we can do.

    Beautifully written as always.

    September 5, 2011 at 9:14 am

  5. That certainly is quite the thought provoking post KD, and perfectly written too… It sure does make you realise and appreciate what is really important in life when you hear of the despair others are enduring…

    September 6, 2011 at 11:50 am

  6. An appropriate photo to mirror the quote. There is much good in this world. It just doesn’t get the same promotion as the bad. Take care of you and yours and spread what good you can into the world through generosity, love and spirit.

    September 6, 2011 at 1:15 pm

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