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Food for thought, Jazzercise

Remembering the difference even one person can make

MayMarie Conte.

Last weekend, we remembered MayMarie Conte, an amazing lady who lost her battle with cancer recently, but went out fighting — and determined to keep smiling.

The service at Zion Lutheran Church in Stamford was lovely, highlighted by some of the hymns and Bible verses MayMarie loved, and punctuated by emotional remembrances from those whose lives she touched.

She was an incredibly kind and giving lady with a sassy attitude who loved the fine arts, was passionate about her profession as a nurse, enjoyed cooking and was steadfast in her faith. She was particular and a perfectionist, but always had a positive outlook. Just thinking of her makes me smile.

I met MayMarie through Jazzercise of Southwestern Connecticut, where she took classes for many years, dancing from a spot in the back row.

Having heard several years ago about our family’s project to paint Catherine’s room three shades of pink (with marshmallow trim), she never failed to ask after Catherine and “the pink palace.”

And when I was unemployed and went to class every day to stay motivated, MayMarie was one of my biggest cheerleaders, always sharing a kind word of encouragement.

She was thrilled when I became an instructor, and I’ll always be sad that I wasn’t fortunate enough to have her in my class. In June, however, I was honored to attend a luncheon she hosted for her Jazzercise family. Although not well, she was eager to see us and put out a spread of delicious food. We ate outside, overlooking her beautiful garden. It was a bittersweet day, but one I will always hold dear.

My interaction with MayMarie offered just a touch of the effect she had on others. At the memorial, I heard about how she was a loyal friend, a passionate teacher of nursing, how she shared her love of ballet and opera with others, that she was generous with her recipes and opinions, and that she always put others first, even in her final days.

Hearing the many stories about how MayMarie touched people gave me pause for self-reflection: How will people remember me?

As a giving, caring person who worked to make others’ lives better? Or as someone who was always too busy, too tired and too distracted to engage?

For making time to nurture many-layered friendships and family ties? Or being forever tied to a computer and BlackBerry?

For having a clean house, or a home full of love and laughter?

MayMarie’s final gift to me — to all of those who knew her — is a call to action: Live life, find a balance, take stock of priorities, look after your family and friends, and focus on what really matters.

I share her gift with all of you, as I think she’d want me to.

How will you be remembered?

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About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.

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