Tonight as I write this, I’m on the other side of the country. I haven’t been able to hold you, tickle you, or chase you in 4 days, and it’s torture. I’m sitting in an airport, getting ready to board a flight that couldn’t possibly get me home to see you and mama soon enough. I travel all the time for my job (you know…all those times you see my suitcase and say “bye-bye”), and you probably don’t even notice that I’m gone, since you and your mama have so much fun together. But I notice, and I’ve noticed more on this trip than any other.
Being away from you and your mama right now is just not ok. You see, Rigby, this week the world lost 2 beautiful souls. I’ll say it right out loud: cancer can suck it. I’m not sure how or when we’ll explain death to you. I don’t really know how or when we learned about it. But what splinters my heart into a million pieces is that you won’t remember the throaty bursts of Jane’s laughter or her buttery alto (uh…tenor) voice. You won’t know that Tanya was all smiles…and trouble (the best kind). These were two women who said what they meant and loved big. And we’ll never forget them.
I suppose that’s what living through someone else’s death is about; the best thing we can do for those who have passed is to make sure they live on in people who loved them. And part of that is teaching you about them. I’m sure there’s more you should know, but right now, while it’s still more raw than I want to admit, here’s what I want to tell you:
Tanya was a character. Beautiful inside and out, she left an impression on everyone she met. She never pulled punches, even when she probably should have. She smiled. All the time. Even when she was upset, she still wore a snarky, toothy grin on her face. She was smart, caring, and compassionate. Tanya would pass a stray dog and the next thing you knew, she was on her way to the pet store for a bed and some food, having absolutely no room for another pet, but no room in her heart to leave it behind. I want you to learn from Tanya how simple it can be to do something nice for someone (human or animal) and turn their day around – or even their life.
Jane was bigger than life. She was one of my musical soulmates. You spent much of your first year listening to her sing, both in our house at her voice lessons and at Nunsense rehearsals. And I know you loved her voice as a baby as much as I still long to hear it today. And she surely loved you. She was among the first people to know that we were trying to bring you into the world, and sometimes I think she, and others like her, willed you into being. She held you before you were even one day old, and she loved watching you grow from that minute until her last. Jane laughed easily, and was hands-down one of the funniest people I’ll ever know. Learn from Jane that a song, a belly laugh, and a bear hug can make anything better.
Jane and Tanya were both fighters. They endured chemo, radiation, and experimental treatments. They prayed. They sought as many opinions as they could. One of the toughest lessons to take away from this is that sometimes you can give it your all and it just isn’t enough. Tougher still? You fight anyway. You do it for the people you love and those who love you.
Jane’s repertoire has been the soundtrack to my life for the past several days. Sometimes I hear her singing one of the art songs we worked on, other times I hear one of her favorite showtunes or a jazz number she sang with Amy & Larry. But mostly it’s a number from Hairspray that she made her own:
There’s a road we’ve been travelin’,
Lost so many on the way.
But the riches will be plenty
Worth the risk and chances that we take.
There’s a dream in the future.
There’s a struggle that we have yet to win.
And there’s pride in my heart
‘Cause I know where I’m going and I know where I’ve been.
I’ll teach you this song someday.