(Photo of Shelley taken nearly ten years ago.)
For those of you who have been reading my blog for years, you know who Shelley is.
For those of you new to my blog: Shelley is a childhood friend who has had ALS for the last fifteen years. Shelley's grandfather, dad, and brother had ALS. Shelley is completely paralyzed. She has a breathing machine, a catheter, can barely talk and within the last few months has a feeding tube.
Shelley is a force of nature, a miracle, a warrior, a friend, a mother, a wife... She lives with this terrible illness with such grace that I am often reminded, "Compared to Shelley this is a cake walk. Now stop being (inject what ever adjective that is not a happy one: Tired, frustrated, bored, angry, feed-up, moppy, lazy...) and rise above it.
Shelley is my measuring stick, my compass, my guide to being a better person.
Shelley inspires me.
Shelley's husband Eric, is her rock and steadfast love. Most men, and I am not exaggerating, not even one little bit, do not even measure against the incredible giving love that he has. He utterly AMAZES me. There is nothing he cannot or won't do for his wife Shelley.
I feel I am playing "Catch Up" on my blog. Yesterday, I spoke of Annie. Today Shelley. Tomorrow Thierry.
I will see Shelley when I go home. I know it will be very hard to understand her as her voice is very weak. But I know I will feel her ever present love, her friendship, her courage and I will cry.
What is happiness? What is love? What is living? What is life? It is what I see between Shelley and Eric. A gift.
A few year's ago Eric sent me photos of their home at Christmas. Shelley's favorite time of the year.
My friend Shelley loves Christmas. Every year her home is transformed into a Christmas wonderland. Shelley decorates the tabletops, the counters, shelves, every nook and cranny (even her bathroom!) with her large collection of vintage Christmas symbols of happiness. As you can see Shelley's hutch (that usually contains flow blue dishes,) becomes a new home for her large collection of vintage Santas.
Shelley's family are her hands, they put Christmas "up" listening closely to her keen eye details they follow her instructions like Santa's helpers. They set up the magical wonder that Shelley has imagined and made true for her family.
Receiving Shelley's Christmas photos by email makes me feel like I am by her side. Christmas at Shelley's house is a feast for the senses. I can almost hear the Christmas carols, the jiggle bells and smell the aroma of freshly baked Christmas cookies. Not one detail is left out. Shelley is a Christmas legend... often I think Santa and Shelley have something going on? I should ask her husband what he thinks about that? Wait maybe her husband Eric is Santa? Why didn't I think of that before!
When Shelley's ALS illness first started her hands began to fail her. A friend came over to help her wrap her children's Christmas gifts. Before Shelley's friend started to wrap the gifts, Shelley told her, "I traditionally wrap my son's gifts in red paper, my oldest daughter's gifts in green paper, and the youngest child's gifts with white paper with checkered ribbon." The friend was taken back, shaking her head she said, "At this point Shelley, you can no longer do the things the way you use to do them. You need to let go. Do you think it matters how the gifts are wrapped?"
Now here is the thing that I admire about Shelley: The little things DO matter to her. She told her friend, "As long as I am alive I will keep my traditions, if I cannot do them I will find someone who will do them for me. If you do not want to wrap the gifts the way that I want that is fine, just leave them unwrapped."
Ah to have the courage to follow your desire! To live your life the best way you can even in the midst of being so very ill. To be able to be honest with others, to the point of saying no to a friend, even when they are there to help you. To be true to what you need, and live gracefully, honestly and encourage others to do the same. I have learned from Shelley that the little things do matter, and that setting up traditions keep memories alive.
Tree toppers galore fill a basket. Are you the star that lights the way?
I could go on and on with Shelley stories. I could tell you how she decorates, and how her family is the rock of her foundation. How her home is inviting, and full of love. But I bet you can feel that from her photos?
You know come to think of it...Maybe her husband Eric is Santa (!?) and her children Britton, Brent, and Garret elves? I always thought of them as saints of goodness....
By contacting her on FACEBOOK: