A sparkle of fearless spirit we can all share
At Jen's service last July, I held on to every word, every recollection, and every beautiful story. And, I found that I was touched by the love that came through in every brave syllable. Through my uncontrollable tears, I remember being particularly struck by the words that Alicia Sands, Jen's dear childhood friend, shared with everyone. As I heard her humor through her pain and felt her genuine love, I thought that all girls should only be so fortunate to experience the depth of true friendship that Alicia and Jen shared. To not only have a friendship that stood the test of time from childhood to adulthood but for it also to be so heartfelt is truly an extraordinary gift.
And so, it came as no surprise that Alicia found many very special ways to remember Jen - including the genius of developing a custom nail polish color with Opi to raise funds for Cycle for Survival. Here is a very special blog post from Alicia, whose friendship with Jen is a true inspiration to us all...
From Alicia Sands
I never thought I would know life without Jen. I can’t even remember not knowing her. My close friend since I was 14, Jen is a part of my history, a part of my family, a part of me.
The past 7 months have been difficult, indescribably difficult at times. Initially, after her death I cried every day. Not exactly the fearless person I wanted to be for Jen! But, while Jen was able to deal with her illness and all the physical and emotional challenges it wrought, she knew that not everyone could follow her lead. I know that Jen would only want me to try my best, to keep her in my heart yet go about my day-to-day life as I did when she was alive. Thankfully, four kids under age seven and all of their daily needs and activities haven’t allowed me too much time to indulge in self-pity. Slowly, I have been able to escape from the tears and appreciate the memories I have of my caring, brave, fun-loving, creative, thoughtful Jen. The constant ache for her has subsided…a little. By the fall of 2011, I started to feel like I needed to channel my sadness into something positive, something “Jen.”
Back on the day Jen died, I was with Dave at his apartment helping to tidy up and assist with her blog. We found Jen’s collection of nail polishes and there were a lot of them. I had no idea why someone who liked going to nail salons to get pedicures as much as Jen did would have so many nail polishes! Despite my puzzlement or maybe because of it, something about the collection resonated with me and I asked Dave if I could have the bottles.
With plans for her burial underway, Jen left instructions for her loved ones to follow after her death. True to her nature, she wanted a “fun” funeral. Given how we felt, we knew that would be a tough request to honor. I tried my best to make my eulogy “Jen-like.” I wore a brightly colored dress she liked, brought in props—she LOVED props when making speeches—and painted my nails in the color she told me she loved two weeks before she died. People seemed to really respond to the part of my eulogy where I discussed Jen’s love of nail polish and revealed to the standing room only crowd that I was wearing her most recent favorite color from her nail polish collection (Essie’s Turquiose and Caicos).
After the funeral, my pedicure tribute generated many favorable responses from Jen’s huge following of loyal friends, family, supporters and cancer patients as well as inquiries into what her other favorite colors were. After I put a picture of my toes from the day of her funeral on her Facebook page, I got even more messages. And, many of those who loved Jen decided to paint their toenails in “Turquoise and Caicos” as well. I decided to start a “nail polish tribute”; every 2 weeks or so I would post on Facebook one of her favorite colors, show my toes painted in that color and encourage others to do the same to honor Jen. I had enough nail polish bottles to continue until around the first anniversary of her death.
Jen was a marketing guru so I felt as if I were channeling some of her skills when it occurred to me that maybe I could do more, something on a larger scale, something to benefit Cycle for Survival. It occurred to me that I could ask one of the major nail polish companies to create a nail polish in Jen’s honor and have the proceeds go to Cycle for Survival. The task seemed challenging but in Jen’s memory I would have tried anything that I thought would have made Jen smile and would also raise money for the fundraiser that is her incredibly successful legacy. When I approached Dave with my idea, he told me that another Cycle supporter and friend of Jen, Julie Frank, had the same idea and suggested we join forces. Julie and I found that we had complementary skills that seemed to make us an effective team.
In our pitch to the major nail polish companies, Julie and I requested that they make a “fearless” polish (after Jen’s motto for living her life with cancer) that we would name after her. Julie and I told them how Jen loved nail polish and indulging herself with pedicures (personally, I can't remember ever seeing her without her toes being polished). After being diagnosed with cancer, in the midst of so many medical tests, chemotherapy treatments and surgeries, some pampering and polishing of her toes brought her a lot of satisfaction. No matter how much pain she was in or how dire her medical situation became, she always enjoyed keeping up her familiar routine of being well groomed. And Jen, as a creative marketing executive, truly loved all the fun and kitschy nail polish names.
We were thrilled when OPI signed on immediately and provided us with 1,000 bottles of a polish color we selected and named. It's a bright blue--Jen had an affinity for blue polish--called "You Fearless.”
My ache for Jen will never fully go away but I felt relieved and grateful that Julie and I had created a tribute that I know Jen would have adored. In her last blog post, Jen said that she could feel her supporters’ love wherever she is. “You Fearless” nail polish was one small way I could let her know how much I love her and always will. I hope that she is feeling the love. In my heart, I know she is.
**** For anyone who is fearless enough to wear “You Fearless,” the nail polish named in Jen’s honor (or if you want to give it to someone in your life who lives their life by Jen’s credo of fearlessness, or aspires to do so), please make a $100 or more donation to Cycle for Survival between today and the day this year’s Cycle fundraising ends (April 1, 2012) and you will receive a bottle. Please go to www.cycleforsurvival.org and make your contribution. Jen would love to know that all her supporters were proudly and courageously wearing her color! And, if you do receive a bottle, please wear it to next year’s Cycle for Survival event!
Hoping this story inspires you to buy this very special "You Fearless" polish! As always, please send your fearless stories to me at email@example.com.