Now that I am exercising on my own and doing things like walking with headphones in my ears, my mind has all kinds of time to create some amazing fantasies. They all revolve around me, of course, and often a much skinnier version of me in some cute little outfit. (If you haven’t noticed, I like the lime-light.)
One such fantasy has me directing a flash mob at a country concert, unbeknownst to the band. Opening scene: I am standing in front, of course, with my blonde hair all curled up and a straw cowboy hat on top of it. I am wearing my red cowboy boots (yes, I already own a pair), a red tank-top and Daisy Dukes jean shorts that are ripped up at the edges. My golden tan is evidenced by my dark arms, legs and face, but especially by my bright white teeth that are clearly visible inside my wide smile.
The first few notes of the song start to play and like an army of robots, we all fall into formation. In my mind, we all become silent and look down with are hands at our sides. The band is playing with gusto, like usual, but after a few seconds, they start to wonder what is going on. The lead singer might even hesitate before the first words come out but as he begins to sing, the flash mob wakes up and starts their dance routine with me leading the way. The band is thrilled by the turn of events and honored to be chosen for such an occasion. When the song is over, the crowd roars with applause and the band is clearly overcome with joy. Those are the fun fantasies.
As I was working out the details to that crazy idea, I was reminded of an actual flash-mob-type of event that I organized a few years ago. But rather than a light-hearted celebration, it was a broken-hearted memorial for a young girl in our community.
One day in October of 2016, I took my girls to early morning coffee - as a treat - before I took them to school. As we were enjoying our drinks, I happened to open up Facebook, which I rarely checked, and noticed a post about a horrible tragedy in our community. It was vague so I mentioned the story to my daughters and of course they knew all about it. They explained that there was a terrible accident at a gun range and a beautiful teenage girl died. Then I learned that she was a Girl Scout, like my daughters, and her mother was a Girl Scout leader, just like me. All of a sudden, the wind was knocked out of me and I desperately wanted to do something.
I knew that anything short of bringing their daughter back, would not be enough, but I wanted to just be there for the family. When our 19-month-old daughter died in April of 2007 (from unknown causes), I remembered how comforting it was to have family and friends around us. Then the idea of a candlelight vigil popped into my head. The accident had only happened a day or two before I saw the post, but I knew that there was a limited window of time to put something together, since people’s lives move so quickly. Plus, that sweet family needed the love from the community as quickly as possible, since the pain was so raw.
First, I contacted the local Girl Scouts office and asked them to call the family and make sure that 1) they would allow us to share their address with friends and family who would show up on their yard with candles and 2) the date and time worked with their schedule. I got a call back fairly quickly, letting me know it was a “go” so that was when the text messaging began. Since my oldest daughter knew some of the girl’s friends, they all started sharing the details of the event with each other. (We all know the power of teenage girls and their phones!) A generic message was also shared on social media sites but interested parties had to message us back to get the location of the house.
A few hours before the candlelight ceremony, I dropped off a yard sign so people would know where we were going to meet. Then my youngest daughter and I came back a couple of minutes before the vigil was set to begin and already people were starting to arrive. In fact, there was a steady stream of people coming from every direction and it continued throughout the event. The little candle lights just kept coming, much like the cars with headlights in the movie Field of Dreams. It was incredible.
I did not know the girl that died, but it became clear that she had left an impression on many people of every age. Lots of her teenage friends were there, along with her beloved family, neighbors and plenty of Girl Scouts, but also countless people who were strangers to me. The lights from the candles represented our shared sadness, but also our fortitude as a community.
Throughout the event, her friends and family shared stories about her precious life and how she would never be forgotten. Even her mother and father spoke, which showed how brave and resilient they were already becoming. I will always remember how her grandfather hugged every single person, including me and my daughter, throughout the night. (It probably took him an hour!)
When I noticed that volunteer speakers were dwindling and it was starting to get late (and rather cold), I finally spoke and just thanked everyone for coming. Then I lead everyone in saying “The Lord’s Prayer,” since I relied heavily on it when my daughter died. (I heard once, that when you don’t know what to pray for, since your prayer to keep family members alive did not work, for instance, then just say “The Lord’s Prayer.”) Afterward, everyone started to make their way to their cars, homes or wherever they came from, but no doubt transformed and forever changed by what they saw, heard and experienced together on that cool and somber fall evening.
Even after 4 years, my memories from that event are so strong that it feels like it happened yesterday. Obviously it left a mark on me since I am still contemplating the after-math of that terrible loss and how unfair life can be. I have seen the parents from time-to-time and they seem to be getting through life just fine but deep down I know they will always be missing her, just like we miss our daughter. (Boy, I fall into some deep rabbit holes when I exercise, huh?)
I’m not sure how to put this all together but in essence, it reminds me that I can do some pretty amazing things if I set my mind to it. The big difference between fantasy and reality though, is conviction, along with some hard work and lots of planning. The intention and strong motivation have to be there as well. When my will and desire are strong enough, I can put major plans into action. Though I may not take the time to plan a flash mob, you can bet your boots that I will be wearing that little cowgirl outfit at a country concert or two next summer! (I lost all of the weight I gained from vacation. Did I tell you that?)
But I still have a long way to go and therefore many more fantasies to dream up as I walk laps at the gym. My eating has been pretty consistent so no concerns there. And I NEVER have to force myself to exercise. (I know – groan. I wish I could tell you that sentence was meant to be sarcastic, but that would be a lie.) So patience and persistence is the name of the game. It will take many more months to make my ultimate dream come true and lose the rest of my excess weight, but it will happen soon enough so I better have my next dream lined up. After I tackle this one, the skies the limit on anything I set my mind to. Oh what dreams may come!