There's a song by Sugarland that I really like. In it, there's a line about knowing "which hands to shake/which hands to hold". I've shaken a lot of hands in my life. I've been pleased to have met a person, enjoyed the time we've had together, and moved on. No hard feelings, best of luck with your future endeavours.
But I have been lucky enough to cross paths with some extraordinary women. Good women. Clever women. Make you laugh until you cry women. Let you cry until you laugh women. And their hands are the hands that I chose to hold.
Another Sarah. That's what I call her. When I was pregnant with my baby, Sarah, I didn't know anyone else by that name. Once she was born, I met 30 women named Sarah, each needing a nickname. Hence, Another Sarah.
Another Sarah has an ease about her. Being around her is easy. She makes people feel comfortable in their own skin. Especially women. Because people seem to know that she's not judging them. She cares only about the soul within the person. Another Sarah has the great ability to use her humour and her wit to lighten the situation. There is never the concern that she will use her humour to embarrass. Another Sarah thrives when everyone is laughing. When you speak, she looks you in the eye. Because she really is listening. She asks questions, offers supports, makes a joke. After being with her, I feel happy.
I've known Cara for about 10 years now. In my eyes, she's perfect (Cara is screaming her objections at her computer as she reads this!). She's beautiful... blond hair, blue eyes, peaches and cream complexion. She married a beautiful man, and had two beautiful children. You would think that I would hate her, right?! But Cara has a quiet kindness that wraps around you. She cares ... about her family, about her friends, about the world, about all the children in the world. She has opened up her home and her heart to an orphan in the Congo, because her love is not limited by lines on a map, DNA, or skin colour. Her heart only sees her child, in a far away country, and she's fighting to get to her baby.
Cara is wicked smart, and she has the advanced degree to prove it! She finds joy in the world around her. She raves about how wonderful a father her husband is. She likes cuddling with her children and watching He-Man. When her life gets too hard, and too painful, and too much to bear, she looks for these simple joys. I admire Cara.
Lisa is my Erma Bombeck. She doesn't mean to be. Whatever struggle I am facing, Lisa has already faced the same thing, but it was ten times harder and 100 times funnier. Lisa "gets" me. She can take one look at me and know what I'm feeling and (typically) why. She knows the right words to say, when to say them, and when to say nothing at all.
Lisa doesn't care what the world thinks. She cares about what she thinks. I care about what she thinks, too. Because Lisa is clever. She's insightful. Also, she's wicked funny! Most people don't know that because Lisa is also very quiet. She keeps her thoughts (mostly) to herself which makes me feel privileged when she shares them with me.
Lisa is the strongest woman I know. She holds on tight to her husband and her children. Life sends massive "waves" to knock her down, and silent "drips" to erode her self-confidence. And my friend stands tall. She is the breaking wall between Life and her family. She wishes she were some pampered duchess in a time long ago. Instead she is a pillar of strength. She is the force that keeps everyone going. Safe. Together. I adore Lisa, and I am so proud to call her my friend.
Melissa would have made this list, too. I think about Melissa every single day. Her death has had ripple effects throughout my life. But it's still too soon to lay my heart out for the world to see. It is, however, important to me that everyone knows that she is included in my list of extraordinary women.