One of my closest friend's stepfather was in the military years ago. He had the chance to talk with the base's medical examiner one day. Her stepfather couldn't understand why anyone would want to go into such a depressing and horrifying line of work. He asked the doctor what motivated him to do what he did on a daily basis.
The coroner related why he worked in his profession in these terms. He held up both his hands as though he wore surgical gloves.
"This is my house," he said. "Everyone has one. The human body is the house for your soul. Whenever I enter someone's house, I am very respectful. I must go in to find out how and why they left. And if I'm lucky, I can learn something that may help others stay in their houses a bit longer."
Shelby Leonhard could no longer stay in her house. She died today with her family around her.
Today we received email from a few sources in and outside the company about the news. My company will have the blood drive on March 3rd, in Shelby's memory, and hopefully help those in need of blood donations.
Not everyone knew Shelby personally, but her presence is felt in many places. Tonight I went to my cardio kickboxing class and happened to get to the exercise room a few minutes early. There was a new student talking with Sherian, our instructor. They were discussing how the gym needed to get better boxing bags.
"I wasn't going to come tonight," the woman told Sherian. "I've been upset all day and had to work it out." Her daughter was one of Shelby's classmates.
In that moment, I realized how small this big town is as far as degrees of separation of knowing people. I also understand her feelings because we've all been there.
We have all been a Shelby: a 14-year old student with aspirations of doing grand things and anxiously anticipating the next level of maturity. Driver's permit. School dances. The next big blockbuster hit over the summer.
We have all known a Shelby: a classmate who people want to be around and knows all the answers. Respectful. Likable. Studious. Fun to be around.
We have all lost a Shelby: through violence or illness or natural circumstances. A close relative. A close friend. A classmate. Old people have lived long and as the age comes closer to our own, the person becomes "so young". Shelby's category: too young.
I find grief to be more about emotional paper cuts than hemorrhages. I can't tell you how many times I've heard from friends on how traumatic they found going through their day and believing, just for an instant, that their loved one was still alive. It was as easy as turning down a familiar street or picking up the phone and absentmindedly dialing their number. The realization of this act is painful. Her loss will be felt for a long time and there will be many moments of this shared by many people.
I will close this entry with the official statement from the Leonhard family sent to us today:
Last night, our beautiful, brave and beloved Shelby went into the arms of God. It was a peaceful ending in a room filled with love.
Our family wishes to sincerely thank each and every one of you for the many prayers and love you have showered on our precious daughter and our family. Please continue to pray for us, especially Barrett and Reese. Please pray that Shelby's loving soul is at peace.
We would ask also that you continue to praise God. He gave us such a precious gift and we feel privileged to have taken this journey with Shelby and with all of you. She belongs to us all, but above all, she belongs now, to God.
With all of our love,