I’m not on Facebook much, but a few days ago I stumbled upon a startling post on my feed. It was from a “friend”, a woman named Jolie, who was announcing her own death and memorial service. Upon closer inspection, I realized Jolie had given the keys to her account to someone else—and actually had passed away at the age of 49.
Like a lot of Facebook friends, I didn’t really know her, though we had been friends since 2012. We shared only one mutual friend, Andrea Balt, the force-of-nature behind the provocative and inspiring Rebelle Society. I imagine Jolie had read a Wake Up Call column at some point, something I wrote caught her eye, and she followed me and I followed her back.
I began looking at what she had been posting about. Just last month, with the advent of warm weather by her Northern Michigan home, she wrote about how she wished it could be summer all year. She posted inspirational videos and quotes. She shared funny videos. She posted stories from a local café that looked like it served a mean breakfast. But she also wrote this 3 months ago:
Can’t sleep with this cough. Hoping it is the bronchitis and not the tumor on my lung. Times like this I tell myself don’t worry about money just seize the day tomorrow. Just live, trust myself, trust life.
I looked up Jolie’s obituary and discovered she had been diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer three years ago. She fought the good fight, encouraging others with the disease, as she struggled with it herself. She travelled three times to Tijuana, Mexico for experimental treatments.
This past July 4th, she wrote and shared a few posts, thanking a local restaurant for taking good care of a visiting relative. She wrote of hearing the first fireworks “boom!” of the night.
On July 5th, she shared a video of a pretty stained-glass cabin in the woods. And then there is nothing until July 1oth, when her death is announced by a close friend.
I have written about death before, including the passing of my 86-year old friend John Gray last year. But this death, at an early age (and the death of anyone younger than me feels early), sticks with me. I wonder if she read my story last year, about a cancer survivor, titled 3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Die. They are:
- What do I still have to give?
- What do I still have to learn?
- What do I still have to experience?
I don’t know how Jolie would have answered these questions. Would she have felt short-changed? Was there not enough time, not enough healthy years, to do all she was meant to do? But, after reading the many Facebook responses to her death (see below), I think I at least know the answer to the first question.
After a lifetime of giving, loving and caring…she is finally at peace. We will all miss you, and will remember you as a giver, a loving person and a fighter.
Regardless of her condition, Jolie always put on a bright smile and seemed happy-go-lucky even though I know she struggled with her illness.
Her love of life, her gratitude, her enormous quiet power, her love, her awesome hugs, her free spirit, joy and humor carry on through all of us who loved her.
The light that shines in our community is less today as Jolie walked on but will remain forever in the hearts and memories of all whose lives she touched.
This is not a goodbye Jolie, simply a so long. I know I will see you again, I love you dearly, always have and always will. Thank you for always living life with such a great giving heart.
A true warrior and a great friend, always positive in life and always smiling. You give others hope to fight and remind us that life is precious and we should cherish it each and every day.
As becomes obvious from just these comments, Jolie gave life her all in the 49 years she was here, right to the end. Since none of us know when death will strike, if we died today, how would others remember us? Will we have lived our lives for the benefit of others or simply for ourselves?Will we be able to say we gave, learned, experienced, all we were supposed to in this lifetime? Will we have taught all we were supposed to teach?