Our daughter, Jennifer, died on January 24th, 2001 in her 34th year of life. She died surrounded by people who loved her. She breathed her last with her arms wrapped around her pillow. Her face drained of the pain and anguish she suffered for the past seven months, she drifted into the peaceful slumber of death. She looked so pink, so young. She looked like she was twelve years old again. It was when she was twelve years old that I directly experienced the lyric "by your children you'll be taught". Jen taught me that life's challenges are opportunities for success. Let me tell you a brief story from her life that illustrates the way she looked at life.
As some of you might know, Jen was a serious student of ballet. She studied for many years on scholarship at the Joffrey Ballet School. One day a casting director came to Joffrey as he had to many other dance schools looking for kids to test for the role of Bob Fosse's daughter in a film to be called "All That Jazz".
Now Poppy (she always called me "Poppy") knew hundreds of kids were being auditioned. Since Jen never sang or danced professionally, I thought she had no chance of winning the role. I attempted to prepare Jen for the inevitable disappointment that I was sure she would face. While we were walking across Times Square to where the preliminary try-outs were being held, I explained why she shouldn't expect to get the movie role. Her coloring might be wrong, she wasn't a jazz dancer, she might not look enough like the actress being cast for the mother's role, and on and on.
Well Jen listened patiently and when I was finished she looked up at me with those big blue eyes of hers and said, "You know Poppy, I have just as good a chance as anyone to get that part." Jen was going to this audition, not to fail, but to succeed. And she almost got the part. After auditioning hundreds of kids it came down to Jen and one other girl. Believe me Jen was the better dancer but I'll concede with reluctance that the other girl did read lines better than Jen.
What I learned from my daughter was that aiming for the stars is a lot healthier and a lot more fun than assuming failure. That's the way Jen approached life's challenges - if you're going to do something - do it great. And those of you who knew Jen knew she was great at everything she tried. She was a beautiful dancer, an outstanding student, a talented sculptor and a promising therapist.
Jen was passionate about her relationships and gave them her all. She loved her family. She had a particularly strong bond with her brother, Robert and in her last days the care and love he lavished on Jen brought tears to our eyes. The great love of her life was Karl and all those who know him know why Jen loved him so. They "got" each other. She cherished her friendships in ways that Jane and I are just beginning to understand. She had a way of reaching into people's hearts and making an indelible impression. You'll hear from some of her friends today who will help you understand this quality of Jen's.
One of her greatest gifts was her willingness to share her friends with us. We got to meet them in San Francisco, New York and at our cottage in Connecticut. I suspect their willingness to spend time with us might have had more to do with the food we served than our company but whatever the reason we are grateful for that time with them. Her friends are the most incredible, loving, loyal, giving group of people. They loved Jen dearly and she them.
Jennifer lived her life with intensity and passion. By that measure, Jen had a wonderful life. It shouldn't have ended so soon. She had so much more to give. Jane and I loved her deeply and happily - Jen knew it.
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