I have to admit, I didn't know her very well.
This weekend I found out, suddenly, unexpectedly, that my cousin Holly had died. I first found out on Facebook, which is the topic of another post, for sure, about the casual nature of social media. But even if I had gotten a phone call, I would have been just as shocked.
I have to tell you, Holly was a bit older than I am, my mom's cousin's daughter. I knew her growing up, of course, but when I was 8, she was nearly 20. So, unlike my first cousins who are very close to my age on both sides of the family, we never "played" together, or went on vacation together, or shared books, clothing, candy.
As adults we only ran into one another on occasion - weddings, funerals. I guess I was closer to her mom, though our meetings were also infrequent. Holly was vivacious and daring, an artist with an amazing self-awareness. If she was at an event, you knew it. And she brought life with her.
Those of you who faithfully read here know I don't usually blog about very personal things... But this really goes beyond personal. It's really about the way women change the world, just by being themselves, even in tiny ways and intimate places.
My first memory - my clearest memory- of Holly happened some time when I was a kid. She had studied Chinese - I think, majored in Chinese - and she was headed to China where she lived for a while. I remember when the decision had been made and she was going. I remember her enthusiasm for the adventure, and her love of Asian culture. I remember that she had been studying a language which in the 80s was so very foreign to most of us, and a culture that was exotic and dangerous in its way. And I remember thinking that was one of the most amazing, coolest things anyone could do.
Many years later, immediately following high school, I left my home to spend a year in Germany. I didn't know much about the culture, and I knew nothing of the language. One of the things I clearly remember before I left was a farewell party my classmates held for me. Several of them expressed how frightened or anxious they would be to just pick up and enter another culture like that, so far away. I appreciated their honesty, but could never relate. I was ready - what was all the fuss about?
But as I grow older, I realize there are significant times in our lives that implant themselves in our hearts without us immediately knowing. We realize so much later when and what happened, and how it changed us. I had absolutely no fear leaving to live on my own as a young woman 3500 miles away, in a foreign culture with a foreign tongue because so many years ago Holly had left to live on her own as a young woman even further away with an even stranger culture and an even more complex language.
Holly never explained it to me. But her actions said: I am a confident woman who is taking a risk. I know who I am, and I am not going to sit here and wish my life would be what I hope it will be.
She taught me something about being a woman and being BRAVE. She taught me not to be limited by what "everybody else" was doing. And whether she intended it or not, in my life she taught me one way to be really and truly open to the BEAUTY of exotic things, of delightful things, of risky things... the beauty of God and all He calls us to be, as His, as women.
Holly was an artist. She made jewelry from natural stones and things. She could see beauty in rocks, in patterns, in others, in life.
As women, we have this connection to the Beautiful and we sometimes fail to see it. We get BUSY. We move with eyes half shut. We trudge through the day towards our pillows, just waiting for the next day.
But what if we don't have many "next days"? Holly was young and died suddenly as her heart gave out, at home, alone. What beauty - what RISK - am I forgetting to face head on, am I missing in my acceptance of routine? What people do I need to bring this beauty, this life to?
Knowing God means knowing beauty. Holly knew God. I don't know if she would have put it this way, but she knew God in His creation, in His people, in her many many friends, in her enormous lust for life. She brought beauty with her - brought JOY.
Maybe today we can all consider Holly. Maybe this is really what courageous womanhood is about. Her life speaks volumes to the feminine genius - to bring beauty, to bring life to every situation... to embrace others in joy. Maybe today is the first day we call or text or email some woman who has given YOU joy - who IS beautiful - who has brought beauty into your life... Maybe today is the day we all thank and encourage those women, and by doing that help build a culture of life among the women in our lives.
And maybe today you will pray with me, that Holly is enrobed in the beauty of the Father's great and lavish love for her. That her family finds comfort and peace. And that her legacy lives in some way in all us - women of courage, women of beauty, women of joy.