I received the Christmas card today that ruined my makeup.

I’d sent my old friend Jill a card, because, well, I adored her to death and I missed her and her wonderful family. And I included a note to mention the fact that she and her husband were so inspirational to me over the years, and now that I (*supposedly*) do volunteer work, I think back to them and how selflessly they gave themselves to their many causes. While Jill is a fabulous contact to have, in all honesty, I miss chatting with her and giggling and hearing her voice every morning on the phone.

Anyway, when I addressed her card, I was confounded as to how to do it. I know the names of her husband (another buddy of mine) and their three gorgeous children, but I was nervous. You see, I hadn’t heard from Jill in abuot six months or so. And her oldest child has a terminal illness called Rett Syndrome, and she’s had it since she was 18 months old. It’s a degenerative illness, meaning that she unlearned the independence she had learned until that early age. Doctors say these kids have a life expectancy of about 10 years or so, although some have gone on a bit longer.

Anyway, Chandler is nearing 10 years old. I ran a few Internet searches on her, and I saw no recent news coverage (she’s been the poster child for several children’s charities). She is model-beautiful, and one shudders to wonder where that beauty could have gotten her in life, without this syndrome.

When I opened the card, I knew it was from Jill because it had a P.S. message on the back of the envelope. No return address, though. That’s my Jill, always in a hundred different directions, spinning a dozen plates every minute. 🙂 But even though the message inside was just lovely and it told me how very proud she and her husband have always been of me, well, it was the black-and-white photo of their beautiful children — all three of them — that made my day so special. Chandler is taller and has the same wisdom in her eyes that she’s always possessed, and her two younger brothers look like each other and are quite obviously free and happy souls.

I must’ve cried for a half hour. At least. But my tears were happy ones. Jill is well, her family is well, and I still have these wonderful people in my life, backing me up and encouraging me and loving me from afar. And I love every last one of them. People like Jill are so rare in this world — with her own daughter being so frail and having entirely too many demands on her own physical and emotional health, she remains positive and grateful for every last second with all of her precious children and her large extended family. And on top of it, she volunteers full-time for no fewer than five charities. Hell, she works more than the paid staff does, I can attest to that. I know I cry about money entirely too often, but here’s a woman who’s doing well financially, yet knows she can lose her daughter at any minute. But she turns her passion into hope for thousands of other children every year. I am not a religious woman, by any standards, but may God bless her and everyone she loves. And I meant what I wrote in her card — she and her husband have made a bigger impact on me than they can ever realize.

I also keep a photo of Tommy, my old buddy Lori’s son, in my jewelry box. He has Down syndrome and autism, but Lori is another one who gave me lots of time and energy at one of my old charities, despite the fact that she, too, had three kids (including Tommy with his special needs) and other full-time commitments. I should drop her an e-mail soon (I lost her address, unfortunately, so I didn’t send a card).

We give so many awards to stupid pop stars and movie queens, while it’s women like Jill and Lori who are really the ones truly making an impact that matters. Happy New Year, girls. Sending you lots of love from my little corner of the world. 🙂

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