I learned a few days ago a college friend passed away. Her name was Jean. We called her Jeanie-Beanie. I remember Jeanie had a bright smile and a hearty laugh. She lost a leg due to cancer while we were still in college. I remember sitting on a swing set with her on a bright winter's day. It was before her surgery. We were in South Park, Quincy IL. It's a great park, with rolling hills and a small stream snaking in and around the grounds. The snow crunched beneath our feet as we made our way to the swings that day.
Her disease was the first time I encountered that hideous word: cancer. She told me she had two choices.
1. Save the leg and have a very short life.
2. Say good-bye to her leg and hope for a long life.
Jeanie sang at my wedding. She'd never sung in public before. But I knew she could do it with ease. She sang, 'Let There Be Peace,' and 'The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face.' I can still remember her rich, alto voice. Jeanie sang at dozens of weddings after mine. She once told me she'd never considered singing in public until I asked her to sing at my wedding.
I wish I could say Jeanie had an easy life. But health problems plagued her. Still, she found happiness in her marriage to Larry and enjoyed her many nieces and nephews. And friends. Jeanie was a special friend to so many. Her heart was big and her love for life enormous.
I can well imagine how she was received in heaven. "Oh, here she comes!" "We've been waiting for you." "Welcome home, Jeanie!"
I hope my reflection on Jeanie's life will remind writers that characters can have real life issues. This is where many readers relate to the character(s). If you are searching for a unique character in your next story, consider someone like Jeanie. She had many physical problems in this world, but her zest for life didn't waver. Her compassion for others outshone her illness. And she left cancer to wither a slow death on its own.
"Far out, Jeanie Beanie! Far out! You silly rabbit."
'Til next time ~