Mount St. Helena
This is dedicated to Helena Zaslow whose heart is always beating in my heart, especially this time of year.
It was December 28, 2004 – in what now feels like a thousand years ago, and we – my husband Ken and I – got a phone call a little after three o’clock in the morning that our friend’s daughter had just died. Literally, she had just died. Her mother, our friend, Susan, screaming into the phone.
“An overdose,” she screamed, “an overdose.”
We got in the car and drove to Connecticut and neither one of us remembers how we got there.
The world – the entire world – went dark.
It was as if a light went out, and the world stopped, and I would wager many of you know exactly what I mean. The world stops. Helena was an entire galaxy wrapped in one; my God, she was sassy and witty and funny and beautiful and filled with a spirit that only matched her incredible sense of humor and her style. She was a warrior and a worrier, she was light and dark, she was soft and hard, and she was filled with so much pain. Sorrow-filled. My God, she wore her heart and her pain – her unbearable pain – on her sleeve, and she was only nineteen. She couldn’t bear to live in her own skin.
I remember speaking at her funeral. I don’t remember what I said – but I do remember choking on most of the words. What do you say about a young woman who managed to change a room the minute she walked into it? How do you describe a human who was filled with all of life – every bit of it – the good, the bad, the ugly, the horrific, the broken, the awful – the beauty – and managed to sweep in and make you feel as if you were the most important person in her world for a minute or two or three; and change that person’s life because yes, yes, you can do that – you can transform a human life in a minute, or two or three with a word, a touch, a gesture, a hug, a kiss.
She was a light – a klieg – that flickered for a fraction of a time.
We are here for a fraction.
We are here on this earth and we witness moments that take our breath away. And we witness breath being taken away. And we witness the very best of humanity and the worst of humanity. And we shrink and we cower and we offer up hope and love and goodness. And we are filled with fear and we are fearless – fierce and mighty, broken and shattered – and we must stop caring what other people think of us and live our lives out-loud and with as much courage and bravery as we can muster. And stop caring so much that what we might say or what we might do may not make every single person happy because the truth is this: we are not here to please others, or cater to others, or live someone else’s life.
We are not here to master suffering.
We are here to be bold and audacious, and we are here to be the light.
To stand up – to stand in our very own shoes – and declare our worth, and own it, and to own every single bit of our lives – and not just lease it or rent it – but to own it outright; and if we have the chance to shine a light on another life – if it’s only for a fraction, a sliver, a blink – then that is what we do even when the light in us is dimming.
We shine a light for however long we are here.
I will shine my light in memory of Helena for as long as I am here.
author. writer. girl.
Women’s eNews weekly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.