Saturday, June 13, 2015

Live Well

For the past two school years, I give my students a 100 on my final assignment, then pass out the paper.  They keep the 100 if they don't ask for or give any answers.  In other words, as long as you put some answer down, you win.  I just want to know what they honestly think. 

The first question and some of their answers:

Now, some people get tattoos because they look cool, and that's cool.  The one on my left wrist, though, holds special significance.  My left wrist got inked on June, 14, 2013.  That would have been my cousin Eva's thirty-fourth birthday.  She'd been in heaven for six months. 

Eva was my first best friend.  Her mother watched me while my mother worked.  Eva and I walked to school together--down a road, around the corner, across Main street with the help of a crossing guard, and straight to Van DerVeer Elementary in Somerville, New Jersey.  She lived around the corner from us.  When we moved to Virginia, she spent summers with us.  During college, I spent half a year's weekends at her house, where we sautéed mushrooms, ate Cappucino Chocolate Chunk ice cream, and left for lengthy Target runs.  Eva and I curled each other's hair for our weddings and laughed through early motherhood. 

Eva had the same time attitude when she was a passenger as I learned to drive.  "We're all gonna die!" she'd scream from the back seat.  I attribute that behavior to my ability to ignore fighting boys while I drive now. 

I think it was September 2012 when I received the call from my mother that Eva had lymphoma.  I was at my in-laws house.  Josh and has parents watched as I dropped my head in my hands and cried.  Eva had two small girls and a July-born baby boy.  I cried for what she'd have to go through.  I cried when I realized how difficult treatment would be with a baby who didn't sleep through the night , a job, and two girls in preschool and gymnastics. 

One thing, I knew for sure, though, was that she would be fine.  Eva was ridiculously healthy.  She had competed in gymnastics growing up, then taken up pole vaulting in college.  She ran marathons.  As a professor, she'd stop by her track coach husband's practices and beat young men in pull-up contests.  She'd coached gymnastics as a camp leader, then as a twenty-something young lady before she began teaching at ECU.  Eva had learned to unicycle within days of receiving one for Christmas.  She'd driven with her leg out the driver side window after she'd had knee surgery. 

I was floored when she passed on New Year's Day 2013.  I'd gone down to say good-bye after an unexpected and quick turn for the worse in December.  I missed saying good-bye to her listening ears by twenty minutes.  She was still warm when I said good-bye, but if she heard me, it was from eternal paradise. 

That June, Cassie, our mom, Eva's mom, and our Oma got inked on Eva's birthday.  They were Hildie and Oma's first tattoos.  Hildie, a nurse, had warned Eva against tattoos for years--even before she'd learned of the permanent lizard between Eva's shoulder blades.  This was our way of honoring Eva and displaying her memory as well. 

Framed picture of our tattoos

My tattoo says "Live Well" in my mother's handwriting.  As an English teacher, I meant "well" two ways.  First, use your life well.  Eva did.  She leaped over obstacles with a joke and a smile.  Yet she'd admit to the difficulty involved.  Second, live a healthy life.  Eva did. She was sick the last four months, but the more-than-thirty-three years prior had included exercise, healthy food choices, prayer, and a good attitude. 

I fail at both meanings.  I fail particularly with the second meaning.  I need a constant reminder of the first.  Still, my left wrist reminds me to keep trying, so that others will remember a life well-lived and so that the lives I touch each day might be made better for having seen me. 

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