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Love Notes

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Marianne's celebrating life and remembering a friend.

She called me “Friend,” and I was honored. I knew her as a student, friend and confidante. I called her “Jenny.”

I miss my friend.

I taught her, joked with her, emailed her, interviewed her, encouraged her and said “good bye” to her just a few weeks ago. Hundreds in her world, which extended from countless friends and family to admiring strangers as far away as New Zealand (because of her poignant blog “Mangy Moose Acres” www.mangymooseacres.blogspot.com), miss her too.

Now, we’re all having a difficult time thinking of Jenny Jacobson Meyer in past tense. Maybe that’s because a part of her stayed with each of us who revered her as a phenomenal human being and as one tough cookie who put up a gallant 8-year fight against cancer. Maybe we feel her influence every day as we do our personal best to Celebrate Life on this earth, in hopes that Jenny will smile in approval from her eternal heavenly perch.

Jenny, I hope you’re smiling because I’ll be talking about tangible reminders that keep your courage and indomitable spirit close to our hearts.

I’m not going to hog the mike because others have things to say too. First, there’s your sister Julie Walkington, the Bonner General nurse who’s involved with the fifth annual Celebrate Life walk-run on the Lake Pend Oreille walking bridge, beginning at 9 am Saturday, August 9.

In 2004, Julie, along with her best friend January Tuinstra, launched this idea with your blessing. Julie promises that Celebrate Life, which has raised $56,000 for local cancer patients over the past four years, is remaining true to the simplicity you so desired.

“Nothing has changed,” she told me. “It’s about everyone being able to participate in a beautiful walk across the lake. Jenny loved that, even though ideas were suggested to make it bigger, bigger, bigger, January and I kept it simple.”

Participants pre-register by August 1 ($20 for adults 17 and older; $12 for juniors 6-16) or register after August 1 ($25 for adults; $15 for juniors) at Meyer’s Sport Tees, Bonner General Hospital prior to the event or at 8 am August 9 at Dog Beach. The registration fee includes a T-shirt.

Then, will come the images that meant so much to you: the bright colors, beautiful scenery, people smiling and visiting, and lots of them, the family feel, etc. Julie says anyone who cannot attend the event can always support the program by sending donations to Celebrate Life, P.O. Box 420, Ponderay, ID 83852.

From these efforts comes cash to be distributed for a variety of needs through the Bonner General Hospital (BGH) outpatient clinic, Hospice and the Kootenai Cancer Center at BGH.

This event has aided numerous local residents over the years whenever nurses in each center have identified needs for families enduring cancer treatment. The funds from Celebrate Life have helped with childcare, gas, dinners, groceries and even massages for patients who could use a boost.

As long as the community continues to support Celebrate Life, Julie remains dedicated to its mission: offering assistance and enhancing the lives of family, friends and neighbors affected by cancer in the Sandpoint area.

Jenny, some members of the Class of 1992, who so admired you as their class president and friend, have even come up with their own touch for this year’s Celebrate Life event and for the years that follow. Melody Deeter Behmer, with graphics help from Amy Gunter-Jahn, publicity from Brian Fischer, and production assistance from your mother-in-law, Nancy Meyer, are coordinating a project to honor you. It will also generate money for the Celebrate Life program and for the “Grace Meyer Scholarship” fund.

“Sarah McIntyre came up with the idea of having matching shirts and walking as a group to honor Jen,” Melody told me recently. “The response we’ve gotten for shirt purposes has been far greater than we imagined.

“We are going to make this an annual event,” she added, “designing a new shirt each year to honor our friend... different colors, different designs, whatever we come up with.”

Like everyone, Melody, who started first grade with you, cherishes her relationship with you.

“Jenny was an inspiration to me long before her battle with cancer,” she says. “I loved that the simple things in life made her happy... eating our first strawberry from our gardens...  making cookies...  going to soccer games and driving old pickup trucks. Her friendship was true, and her love was pure”

Then, there’s Jeff Bock who’s putting the final touches on “Jenny’s Journal,” the 26-minute DVD documentary he produced, featuring your life with terminal cancer and your constant efforts to celebrate day-to-day life with your beautiful daughter, Grace, your ever-supportive and loving husband Jeff, your family and with special friends.

He says the finished product will be distributed through Kaiser Hospitals or Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. For now, anyone interested in a “no frills” copy can send $10 to Jeff at 17430 Vanowen Street #5, Van Nuys, CA  91406. Whatever is not used for mailing will be sent to the “Grace Meyer Scholarship Fund.”

You, Jeff and I developed such a friendship while shooting all that footage over those three years. Recently, Jeff summarized some of his thoughts about the documentary project.

“For a private person, even Jenny was surprised that she agreed to do it. Her pragmatism outweighed her ego, always doing the right thing, and she knew this would be important to her daughter, her family and friends, for posterity as well as a life lesson to teach others,” Jeff writes. “So she packed up her fears and went ahead full steam. What came out of those years of filming was something so tender, so touching and so candid that we knew we’d done the right thing.”

In October “Jenny’s Journal” will be featured as part of a community cancer forum at the newly restored Tower Theatre in Bend, Ore. Yet, another classmate, Angela Warren Miller, is coordinating that project.

“We’re going to have an annual Women of the Tower Campaign, spotlighting a yearly issue we’d like to address and give our community a platform from which they can come together in a healthy and productive forum,” Angela explains. “Our inaugural year will be Breast Cancer Awareness. The evening’s activities will include a presentation by our oncologists and panelists, a Q & A session, the launch of our proposed “Breast Buddy” system and a screening of “Jenny’s Journal.” Angela is hoping the film will educate and empower the women of Bend.

So, Jenny, your influence continues, not only among people who have known and loved you but with countless others who missed out on that opportunity. I have no doubt, though, that the legacy you have left will touch them and inspire them to celebrate their own lives in simple ways just as it has done for so many of us.

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Author info

Marianne Love Marianne Love is a freelance writer and former English teacher who enjoys telling the stories of her community. She has authored several books, the latest of which is "Lessons With Love."

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