Today, the world lost a bright and beautiful soul with the passing of Lorajean Vrieze Spencer. I had the pleasure of meeting Lorajean through community theatre (a great place to meet and make lifelong friends). I admit that I did not know Lorajean well. We never worked on the same show at the same time, but we were always around the same theatres and knew each other. She was always quick to say a friendly hello or engage in conversation.
Lorajean and I were close to the same age. She also had two young daughters. She was simply living her life when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. As a non-smoker, she was, understandably, shocked. She went through various steps of treatment (surgery, chemo, radiation) and had been looking like she was clear of the cancer when it returned. From there, the decline was fairly quick. During her battle, she was candid (and humorous) in her posts about her health and the changes in her life. She described the transition from a young, healthy mother of two to a bedridden, waning mother of two with honesty and joy. Even in some of her darkest moments she relied on faith and family to console her and help her continue her journey.
I admire Lorajean’s frank discussion of her battle with cancer. In addition to being her own outlet for expressing her feelings and keeping those around her apprised of her condition, her posts provided readers with the opportunity to reflect on their own lives. While full of admiration for how she handled her end of life experiences, I found myself terrified by her entire situation. It was a perfect example of exactly how unpredictable life (and death) is. One day she’s fine, the next day she is diagnosed with cancer, and then in an excruciatingly short period time, she’s gone. Her girls have lost their mother; her parents have lost their daughter.
Lorajean’s life and death will be celebrated and mourned by many. They will also serve as a reminder to all who were touched by her to live your life while you have it. Let go of what’s not important and hold tight to what is.