On Dec. 5, Reel Big Fish was playing in Joliet, and she wanted me to meet her. But my car had died a few days prior, and I didn’t want to swing the $25 ticket price. I’d never seen the band, but remembered how much she loved them in high school. She had a band t-shirt that she used to wear, when we met at youth group. I only wanted to go because she was going– to share it with her. But I didn’t.
We never know when it’s our last chance to call someone back, give them a hug, and make a memory. I found out the afternoon of Dec. 9, that I had missed my last chance to spend time with Theresa. I saw a status on facebook. Then another, and another.
How can her light be gone?
I will share two videos that epitomize why Theresa is cherished by all who knew her, even fringe acquaintances. Last year she participated in the Polar Plunge at a local bar where she was a regular. She jumped into an inflatable kiddie pool filled with icy water on New Year’s Day 2011– twice.
Both times with friends, and the second time, I was that lucky friend. First, she jumped with her friend Erik.
When I had arrived earlier, there was only one person there I recognized. The bar was packed, the band awesome. It should have been so much fun. But without any friendly faces around, I felt lonely.
Until Theresa burst in the front door, and I squealed! She gave me a big hug, and I was glad I had stayed. I told her I had already done it once, but was about to chicken out on round two. “I’ll go with you!” The first time I had jumped in alone, and it was anti-climactic without any friends around. But Theresa had the excitement of 10 people! After she finished her first jump, she emerged around the corner just when I was beginning to think maybe I’d rather go inside. There was no way she was letting me get away with wimping out!
Jumping to keep warm, Theresa started clapping with anticipation. Her famous smile was there. It was insane for both of us to do it a second time–especially since she had just done it a few minutes ago! I had at least an hour or so to warm up. But she was so excited, she wanted to share it with me. Theresa was like the Polar Plunge cheerleader, and her chanting began:
“Are you ready to go? Are you ready? Let’s go! Let’s jump now! Right now!”
Listening to the video, I’m not sure if that’s exactly what she said. But I’m grateful to be able to relive that moment through those videos– because THAT is the Theresa that everyone remembers and will never forget. Her enthusiasm was impossible to resist, and within seconds we were both jumping in, screaming! I shoved and splashed her, she giggled and hopped out, like a smart woman! I plugged my nose, closed my eyes, and went totally under for the full experience. Glorious. What a way to begin 2011!!
Without Theresa’s support, I might not have gone in at all a second time. But she made you feel emboldened, like you should embrace adventure. These videos truly epitomize her generosity, her ebullient spirit. Afterward, we took a bunch of goofy pictures inside. We posed with a Santa statue.
Just being around her for a few minutes could warm your heart, because she exuded joy. But this memory of us on New Year’s Day 2011 is the most alive.
And that’s how Theresa lived her life– with gusto, jumping in with a giant smile.
And just like last year, I will celebrate New Year’s Day at the Polar Plunge. In tribute to her, I will jump twice– for Theresa.