Friday, 23 September 2016
The teachers that we meet
Throughout life, we have many teachers. There are those who teach us matter of fact things like words and numbers, and give us a bearing in the structure of the world. There are others who give lessons without evening knowing they are doing it. Vashti was such a teacher for me.
At age 20, she was dealing with mastectomy, breast reconstruction and stage 3 breast cancer. In time the cancer spread to her spine, and on Sunday 18th September, aged just 23, Vashti passed away.
Beyond that first swell of grief my over-riding feeling was of gratitude - gratitude that I had known this amazing person. There was a desire to turn to anger as there always is when we lose someone important to us but to me it is more in keeping with the person she was to consider the blessing of knowing her to the bitterness of being without her.
Vashti was an inspiring woman - I feel uncomfortable using the past tense 'was' as I think the memory of her still is inspiring to those who knew her. She never complained about her situation, never gave in to enraged 'why me' rants though it could be argued she had every right to a pity party. There were no cryptic, attention seeking comments on social media. She never said that life was shit.
She would post on Facebook asking people to share their smiles and to say why life was good. She was thankful and often spoke of her gratitude at the wonder there was to be found in life. Days before her death she pointed out that the full moon was a harvest moon, the biggest of the year - a typical Vashti comment showing her awareness of the great wide world outside and the beauty it had to offer.
It is a cliché to say it but to me she was a being of light. Cancer took her mobility, her health and ultimately her life – but it never took her light, that fierce, creative brightness. She lived more fully in the short time she had than many manage in decades. I only have to look at the messages people are leaving for her to know that I am not the only one who saw this and understood what a remarkable person Vashti was.
What did she teach me by her example?
She taught me that there is always light in the darkness; that sometimes that light is you.
She taught me that life can be brutally unfair but you have a choice – you always have a choice – on how you react to it and what you put back out there.
She taught me what bravery looks like.
The world is less without her in it - but those of us who knew her are more because of her.