Friday, March 30, 2012

Celebrating Life and Great Lessons Learned

On Friday, March 30th, I was honored to be part of a group that celebrated the life of someone who truly is one of the best woman that I have ever known.  Janel Saunders.  Cancer took over and Janel lost her battle this past Sunday night.

Janel does not want anyone saying the "f" word at her celebration (that's FUNERAL...or as one choir member said the other day FUN-eral).  We are celebrating, people!  We are celebrating her life, what she has done, the people that she has touched, those whom she has led and educated and of course, celebrating all of the funny stories and things that she has done.  She was a woman that seemed to get energized when she liked something and also someone who seemed to have the right questions when you were planning out something that had never been done before.

I have attended many funerals in my life of 34 years.  4 grandparents (I do have 1 living still...can you do that math?), 1 sister, many close people in Fort Dodge and some relatives that lived not too far from us that are from my moms side of the family.  We have always called these services funerals.  I really wish that someone would have stuck the word "celebration" in there instead.  I like happy things.  I don't like sad stuff that makes me cry.

I will miss Janel.  I will miss her yet I know that she was fighting a tough battle.  Janel was a fighter though and taught me many things not only when she wasn't sick but as she was fighting for her life:

  • Knowledgeable.  Janel was a mom that I definitely looked up to for answers.  Her kids are in that independent stage now and can do many things on their own.  She taught them well though...with their education, work ethic, character qualities that they show and in the way that they act...they are great kids.  Great kids are the result of great parenting.  As I stood on the stage today celebrating her life with song (with some tears mixed in there) I saw her kids in the front row.  Her kids were celebrating and worshiping right with us.  Their hands were raised, folded or hugging another family member that needed comfort.  After the service the majority of people went to the gym to look at all the wonderful items that were Janel.  Her kids again showed their true selves as they were holding kids, talking with others and being real as they celebrated the life of their mom.  I listened to many talks that Janel gave through the last several years.  I sat in many meetings with her as we talked with other groups or people that were interested in starting up MOPS groups.  She gave us great information and was a wonderful resource for any mom or wife.  Better than any book that I could have read!
  • Genuine.  Janel had a lot of great qualities as a person but I truly feel that the one I admire the most is that she was genuine.  Janel was Janel.  She was Janel at church and she was the same person on the missions trips that we went to in Sisseton, SD.  She was the same person if you happened to run into her at the store.  She was funny and had great stories, she would give great advice and she was a servant.  Through all those different roles and situations she was always genuine.  Many times I hear or see people say one thing while I am with them and then will catch a glimpse of how they act in a totally different setting.  I expect that person to be the same but at times I am shocked by the words or actions that I see them portray in those different situations.  Janel was consistent with who she was and who she wanted to represent.  
  • Be satisfied or be dedicated to make a difference.  I don't think that there is anything in this world that brings me down more than complaints.  I seriously start to get all queasy, fuzzy in my head and just plain disgusted at people that complain.  Being negative just doesn't go well with who I am.  You might be thinking that in order to make things change we have to discuss those things.  Well, yes and no.  See some people like to just complain and that's it.  They want to complain but then not do anything about it after that.  Others find that they are not happy with something, discuss, and then go to make a change with whatever they aren't happy with.  See the difference?  Do I complain?  Yes, sometimes.  If I complain though it is usually only to Chris and I have specific things that I tell only him.  If I want something changed because I see that a change needs to happen I will work towards that change as much as I possibly can.  I have learned through many people these past few years the good and bad about complaining.  I have also learned how to put things in action and make stuff happen with hard work.  Janel was with me from step 1 (ok...really step 2.  She wasn't with me when Teen MOPS first came into my head).  Janel sat down with me and a few other women that met to discuss the potential of this group in Rochester.  Janel had lots of questions for me and wanted the details.  I had very few details at that point but I learned through her example that getting results was better than just spewing words about how hard the work is or how impossible it seemed at the time.  Teen MOPS was a very hard group to get up off the ground and at times we seemed to hit a lot of roadblocks.  Janel was a great leader and example to me on how to lead a group that had many strikes against it from the beginning.  So glad I learned this lesson early on and instead of griping and complaining I just dug in deeper to try to find a solution to whatever the problem was.  Imagine who would have wanted to be part of this group for teen moms if the leader was complaining all the time?  
  • Pray.  If there is something that you need help with, a person that you are having some disagreements with, a situation at work that is not so easy to handle, or anything in general that you need help with...pray.  Janel spoke awhile ago and was recorded during this talk about her journey.  Through more tears we were watching Janel on the big screens in the sanctuary.  Her words were simple...she wanted to be better and she wanted control but she knew that this wasn't up to her but up to God to fix if it was his will.  HIS WILL.  I think so many times we want to fix things ourselves, want to be in control (I know the control thing is in my blood...first born :) and think that we should just do it because we can or think it should.  Janel tried to get better but she also knew that it has to be God's will for her to be healed from the cancer.  She wanted to live to see all of her kids graduate, get married and to see their kids.  She wanted to live a great life with her husband.  She knew that it wasn't her choice though.  There were many people praying for her and I know that she shed a lot of tears praying on her own.  
  • Trust.  That word is only 5 letters but it is a huge word for me.  Trusting in a being that can't be seen, that can't physically talk to you and that you can't touch.  Wow.  I can totally understand trusting this God that created us during the really good times of our lives.  Trusting in the really bad times...those where cancer is involved...that is a very hard one for me to grasp my mind around.  I had at one point complete trust in God.  It was a young trust, one that didn't have many trials or hardships that helped build up the trust so it was unbreakable.  When those hard moments come you realize what is holding you steady.  You realize who and what you can trust.  I can't say that I trusted in God 100% as my sister was sick.  There are a lot of questions that go through your mind when someone close to you is very sick and you can see the physical pain that has been caused because of an illness.  I had my peaks and my valleys in my trust with God and the question of why he had to take her little life will always be in my mind.  I am sure that Janel had the same question in her mind as she was fighting this battle.  Why Janel?  Why her?  I don't know the answers and I doubt that I will ever truly understand or comprehend why people have to get sick and suffer.  I know that God can take all that away if he wanted to.  I also know that there is a reason for every action and although we may not understand the reason why at this time, there is an answer out there that maybe we just can't see at the moment.  Regardless of all that, trust is hard.  Watching her battle these past 4 years has shown me though that someone who is facing death can still have trust.  Now, it may not be a solid, 100% and unquestioning trust.  But, the trust was there with Janel and she showed others that they too can look to God when they need help and can't do everything on their own.  If I am faced with any situation that has similarities I hope that I can reflect the amount of trust that Janel exemplified.  
Those are the 4 things that I have been reflecting on this past week as I think about Janel.  I have thought a lot about her the gym I even teared up a few times (hopefully everyone just thought it was sweat), in spin class (luckily it is very dark in that room), while practicing for the choir songs that were sung today for her celebration, or just some random thought about her as I was mentally preparing for this day.  

Janel...such a great example of how God wants us to live of life.  Thank you for being such a great example to all of us.  

1 comment:

Cori said...

I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. What a neat lady! Sounds a little like a challenge to live like she did.