This I believe.
I believe in a quote I recently came across,“we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, rather we are spiritual beings have a human experience.”
Only days after giving birth to her first and only child, Tully, my friend Tracy Jernigan Keefe died suddenly from peripartum cardiomyopathy. Tracy was 32. We had played college basketball and soccer together. This was no weakling rather a sleek, slender, strong woman.
I used to envy Tracy. People gravitated toward her easy personality. When she laughed, her mouth engulfed her face. I can picture her lively gait as she sped around our college campus, pony tail bouncing. Her movements quick. Tracy was never short on energy. Her vigor was addictive, you wanted to be near her in hopes that some of her natural optimism would rub off on you.
In college there were elegant balls, attended only if asked by a boy. While Tracy was never short on requests to these events, she would rather round up a group of her girlfriends, get dolled up and rock out with the girls. I had more fun at those events taking Tracy’s confident, self assured lead. She helped me realize you don’t need to follow societal rules to have a good time, you can create your own path.
Tracy was in possession of that rare quality of not caring what others thought. She loved to share her father’s childhood story in which he ate ketchup sandwiches because his family was so poor. She wasn’t ashamed, she was proud. Proud that her Dad survived and worked his way out of poverty to provide a safe and happy home for herself, mother and sister. She appreciated life and made sure not to miss out on all that it had to offer. She lived by her own rules, and was determined to keep it uncomplicated. Tracy was able to create a balance of what needed to get done through hard work, but still knew when to “leave the dirty dishes in the sink” and go out to play.
A self proclaimed “simple girl from Maine” Tracy knew what she wanted in life. Marriage, to be a school teacher and to have children was all she desired. Before her life ended she did indeed achieve all three.
There was no denying her husband Keefer’s adoration for her. The way he looked at her, with such complete contentment. She was his and he was hers. When his eyes were locked on her, you got the impression that they were in a bubble that no one could penetrate.
Their wedding in 1999 was a celebration of family and friends set in a field in her home state of Maine. They arrived by horse drawn wagon to greet their guests after a ceremony filled with laughter and tears. As a guest you watched and knew these two were meant to be together, it was encouraging watching them say their vows as it restored one’s faith in true love. I left that day confident that they would live a long, happy life together.
The wedding was the last time I saw or spoke with Tracy. I got the call that she had died on July 11th. Like many others, I was in disbelief. While years had passed since I last saw her, the pain of her absence on this earth crushed my heart. I miss her terribly. I miss knowing she isn’t out there laughing and living life to the fullest. I miss that she won’t be teaching future generations the values in which she so adamantly believed. I am sad that her son won’t get to know his wonderful mother firsthand. I know that he will know her, through the many stories that friends and family will share with him throughout his life, but it is so difficult for me to comprehend why a person such as Tracy who had so much to teach this world, especially her son was taken from this earth far too soon.
Telling me that God has a plan doesn’t work for me. Telling me she is in a better place doesn’t help either. I can only believe that there is much more to this world than we will ever understand. I can only hope that we are indeed spiritual beings having a human experience.
A few weeks after Tracy’s death, I was working on a worksheet with my kindergarteners. They had to color a picture of a cow, then name the cow and tell me what the cow liked to eat. I asked my first student what his cow’s name was. Benny replied confidently, “Tracy.” I smiled as I wrote her name on his worksheet. I asked the next child, “What is your cow’s name?”
“Tracy” she replied.
My arms broke out in goose bumps and a chill went through me. “Tracy?” I asked. “Yep, Tracy.”
The next five children proceeded to tell me that their cow’s names were Tracy too. My eyes welled with tears. “Hi Trace,” I whispered to the air.
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