A week ago, I sat at the bedside, holding tightly to the hand of one of the most incredible givers I've met in my lifetime.

A lifetime.

That's how long I've known Mrs. H. In my 41 years of life, she's always been there. But there are thousands, over her decades of teaching, that could say the same thing.

She had the ability to make you feel like you were her favorite. You were special. And some how she found time to support your interests and encourage your dreams, as she was supporting many others.

Tears streaming down my face, I was fine just to hold her hand and not talk.

Were words needed?

Not really, because over my lifetime she never missed an opportunity to tell me how proud she was of me or how much she liked reading my writing.

Even though her body was frozen, her mind was as clear as a mountain spring. While holding her hand, another visitor entered, and even though she was trapped in the bed and her body, she asked this visitor, "How are your parents doing?"

Not that I was surprised, but even in her toughest days, of her battle with ALS, she still displayed a caring concern for others.

I didn't want to leave.

I could have sat there all day holding her hand. I can't describe the feeling, but I've never had someone hold my hand so intently, so connected.

We kissed each other goodbye and exchanged I love yous. I tried to be strong but tears flowed without my permission.

Days later, the light in a small southern Indiana town dimmed. The brightness she brought to the community will never be replaced.

As I write this, I'm torn between staying at a writer's conference or hopping in my car to be at her funeral.

I've spent alone time, at the conference, crying in the shower, a bathroom stall, and my dorm room.

Sometimes being an adult stinks.

Hard choices have to be made.

And then finally, I asked myself a simple question, "What would Mrs. H want me to do?"

She'd want me to stay and learn more. Education was extremely important to Mrs. H. She dedicated her lifetime to teaching others. Not just music, but confidence, work ethic, respect for yourself and others, and it's okay to have fun and laugh at yourself.

So today and tomorrow, even though many will be celebrating her life, I'll be here, at Wheaton College, becoming a better writer. And I believe that is not only what Mrs. H would want, but it's what she'd expect of me.

Being fully transparent, I also have a hard time with funerals. They sometimes take away from how I want to remember a loved one. And even though I have a lifetime of memories with Mrs. H, holding her hand in her final days, is a moment I'll cherish, remember, and feel for a very long time.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

"The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"

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