As most of you know, this January I have dedicated my blog to profiling some of the women in my life and encouraging the #healthyatanysize community to define for ourselves the women that we want to be by exploring definitions of aspirational womanhood.
It saddens me to share that an acquaintance of mine, and a woman that I have aspired to be more like since the moment I met her, has lost her life to domestic violence. Out of respect for her and her family, I won't be using her real name or referencing the details of her story in this piece. But I feel moved to honor my memory of her, and share my reaction to this tragedy in the hopes that it somehow benefits others.
To me, it just seemed like her star burned too brightly to have been impacted by this kind of personal tragedy. We all have our conceptions of what domestic violence "looks" like, and in my mind this statuesque, kind, effervescent, beautiful, and confident woman wasn't the kind of woman that a man would ever raise his hand to.
She was that woman in the office that you wanted to spend your coffee break with. She was beautiful, inside and out, and every head in the room turned when she entered not only because of her external beauty, but also because of the beauty that shone from within her. She had a smile for everyone, and she was always able to lighten a tense conversation and get people to laugh at themselves. She was a comedienne, and had a well-developed sense of appreciation for the absurd scenarios that can play out in any workplace.
She had a deep love of music and a beautiful singing voice, which she exercised often. She probably should have been signed to a music label, but as a devoted wife and mother she made her family the center of her universe, and would instead take opportunities to sing at community events, church events, and official Navy ceremonies, such as retirements and change-of-commands. These ceremonies are where I got to experience her talent. She had such poise and stage presence, in addition to a beautiful voice, and her performances were always much anticipated treats for those that knew of her abilities.
But it just goes to show that the statistics about domestic violence, which perhaps we are numb to, are all too true. Race, religion, socioeconomic status--not even the fact that the man perpetrating this violence was, by many other standards, a hero in our society--absolved her and her family from being affected. And now their young daughter will grow up without parents, having born witness to their tragic deaths and untold amounts of anger, violence, and trauma leading up to that.
I don't say any of this to exploit these tragic events or encroach upon the right of her family and loved ones to mourn their loss privately. I don't even claim to have been especially close to her. She was a mere work acquaintance, and not someone I often thought of outside of my professional interactions with her, other than when I'd see from her posts on Facebook. But in those times where I did interact with her, I was often struck by her aspirational qualities. As a woman, I can't help but feel empathy for what she must have been going through. As a human, it's in my nature to seek to learn something or find good in the apparent darkness of this type of tragedy, just like anyone else.
What I will take away from her death is that we as women must always be mindful of what one another may be going through in private, and go out of our way to support one another. And we should never take for granted that because of all the modernity and material excess we may enjoy in the first world, each of us gets to live with a reasonable feeling of safety. There are private struggles and different forms of human tragedy playing out around us every day, and we can't afford to rely upon events like this to remind us of that.
I wouldn't have expected her to share with me what she was going through. We weren't as close as that. And I don't know what, without knowing, I could have done for her. But maybe just going out of my way to smile at her more, to acknowledge her accomplishments and contributions, and praise her for the qualities I admired in her could have in some way helped or comforted her. At a minimum, she deserved to know how she was thought of by me, and I know by so many others as well. So I hope that I did somehow convey my respect and admiration for her through our interactions, and that she knew how very adored she was.
In so many ways, she represented the kind of woman that I have always wanted to be. She was a great woman to work with, a good friend, a loving mother, and a radiant, beautiful soul who touched the lives of many. But beneath all of that beauty and strength was a tender spirit that needed love and protection. I suppose all that anybody can do after a tragedy like this is give that love and tenderness to everyone, because we never know what someone might be going through. Even the women that we want to be may be women in need, in ways that we cannot imagine.