We shared the same Irish DNA, Dana and I. My grandfather Welch, was her great grandfather…her father, my first cousin. She got the red hair, I got the green eyes.
I remember when she was born…funny that…as I don’t remember many other births of children when I myself was a child…outside of my baby sister’s. I think I remember Dana because of that ginger hair and those curls.
A decade apart in age, by the time she started school, I had left the small island fishing village where both our stories started. Our paths crossed sporadically over the years and then about 8 years ago we reconnected…via Facebook of all things.
I was back living in the North, she in the BC Fraser Valley. We had both started blogging. Dana even landed a contract with the Huffington Post. The blog posts and the woman behind them quickly garnered a large following. I was among them.
I don’t know much about Dana’s life after she left the island, but I know it wasn’t easy…until she met Mike. Her King, she called him. Her, his Queen.
We corresponded back and forth over the years…a few emails, mostly private messages on Facebook….and of course our blogs. Hers was about helping…mine about healing. We laughed about some family things…we cried about others.
I remember when she said she was taking a writing class…I was afraid that she’d lose who she was by ‘conforming’ to someone else’s style…and I told her. She didn’t…it gave her confidence.
Then came the news that she had been diagnosed with cancer….#fuckcancer became her battle cry and those of us on her team circled the wagons and vowed there would be no “you poor thing” emails, messages, or blubbering conversations.
Well right now…I want to burn the fucking wagons, kick the shit of out something…scream into the cold dark night. But I don’t.
Instead I melt into a blubbering mess…sobbing my heart out as I try to find the right words to honour my friend. Dana never considered herself a ‘cancer patient’. Her response was to live each day with “Grace, Glory & Love”.
She loved vintage clothes, but not many things got her more excited than a kick ass pair of shoes. I remember her delight when I told her about a pair of bright orange stilettos I had…and what I called them. Now THAT makes me smile.
I remember sharing a couple of memories about her mother, Nancy, whom had also died young…and how Dana always planted a new rose bush each year in her memory. I like to imagine the two of them together in a field of roses, or baking bread…hmmmm, another smile.
When she first shared her diagnosis almost 2 years ago, I told her that while I hadn’t been a major player, I had always been on her team. Nothing would change that.
After I received word of Dana’s passing during the early morning of Christmas Eve…I cried. A lot. Just when I thought I’d cried myself dry of tears….the flood gates would open again. Many of those tears for my own loss, some were for the shortness of Dana’s life….most were for her family; her three children, her three grandchildren…two Princes and a new Princess, and for her King. God, she loved them all fiercely. And I cried for her extended family who have been through so much grief in recent years. My heart felt like it was being torn from my chest…like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t imagine their pain.
Serendipity. Luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for. Fortunate happenstance.
A few days after her death, I was back on my computer, revisiting Dana’s blog at www.thebeautifulreal.com and reading the posts shared on her Facebook page. When I couldn’t read through the tears anymore, I started just scrolling through my own Facebook page when a post popped up in my news feed about a piece of art that was for sale in a nearby town.
I immediately called the artist and had the piece purchased within minutes of the post. It’s an eight and a half foot high piece of driftwood, painted to look like the Aurora Borealis…or Northern Lights. I call it ‘Dana’ in her honour.
Stretching and reaching as high as she can….overcoming all the odds, the awkward little tree became a thing of immense beauty. All it took was the right person to find her and bring out her shine…her sparkle…her limitless potential. To love her unconditionally. My ‘Dana’ will hold a place of honour outside at our home. Beneath the warm sunshine of our long summer days and under the moonlight of our cold, dark nights she will continue to reach high and dance with the stars. Like the Aurora, twirling her vintage skirts of green and pink …with perhaps just a whisper of leopard print beneath the folds…to keep it interesting…and unique. Like the Dana for whom she is named. One of a kind. A gift to all of us blessed enough to enter her sphere.
The circle of life continues to spin. A birth, a death…and in between, life. Dana’s legacy is a reminder to grab that bit between our birth and our death and run with it. To be fearless. To be true to who we each are…to not conform. Adjust that crown…even if it’s a tad tarnished, hold your head high and wear it with pride. Life is short. Buy the damned shoes. And Dana….#fuckcancer. ❤
Photo Credits: Used with permission from Mike O’Dell
Photo of Dana wearing crown of roses by Sarah Sovereign Photography
All other photos of Dana by Mike O’Dell, who ‘saw’ her ❤
Driftwood Art by Natacha Kruger Rewega Paintings