I think this is a good post to start with more writing, as I have a lot to say and not all of it has to do with the Willott Family. In fact it truly just ends with the Willott's and I meeting under a sad, yet happy circumstance. It starts with a star named Taylor.
Taylor Bell and I met in Sparks though we didn't really get to know each other until we started playing softball a couple of years later and then again when the English program at one of the local elementary schools closed down and all of those students transferred to my elementary. (Sparks, if you don't know is part of The Girl Guides of Canada). I guess it would be safe to say that Tay and I grew up together. We had many of the same boyfriends throughout junior high and high school, we played ball together, we shared tears over heart breaks and strike outs.
I was there the first time Taylor had a seizure in school. I remember seeing her fall out of her desk and begin convulsing. I remember riding in the ambulance with her to the Children's Hospital so that she wouldn't be alone. Taylor developed epilepsy in high school but even that didn't slow her down. She was passionate about singing and dancing and acting. She truly was a triple threat. She had the diva in her and the drive to become someone and she was starting to make that happen when she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Taylor died about a year after her diagnosis, just before Christmas, surrounded by her family. She was 20 years old. And I wish that I could say that Taylor and I, because of our history, because we grew up together, that we were close to the end, but we weren't. Our personalities were so different, our priorities different - but thinking back on it now, now that I have matured, now that I know what really matters, I wish that I hadn't let something so silly distance us. We never fought, we just drifted. And toward the end Taylor reached out to me, but every time I would put it off, make up some excuse not to hang out. And truthfully I thought she was getting better, but now I wonder if she wanted to see me just to say goodbye to those years we shared. To those memories we made. To share tears once more...
Taylor was extraordinary. And she was just a kid - she had so much growing left to do. She had so much learning and loving and experiencing but when I think back on it, I think she lived a very full life.
She had incredibly close friends, that not many people will experience in this lifetime. She excelled so well at what she did, she won awards, she was recognized. She is a star forever now, and we remember her.
Every year Taylor's mom puts together a fundraiser in her memory. They raise money for both "Young Adults Cancer Canada (YACC) and the Youth Singers of Calgary. YACC is an important organization that advocates for and supports young adults as they move through and beyond cancer. The Youth Singers of Calgary (youthsingers.org) is a performing arts organization that nourished Taylor's love for all things musical. They hold a silent auction and friends and family gather to bid and eat and drink and laugh and remember Taylor and raise money for this cause.
I donated a shoot this year and met with Tay's family for the first time since her funeral... I think a large part of me felt massive guilt for not seeing her before she passed, for going on with my life and getting married and having children that Taylor never got to experience, and I didn't want to flaunt that in their faces. Through tears Jackie and I talked and we hugged and I could feel Taylor around us everywhere. I wasn't always religious, nor am I very in your face about my religion, but I knew that Taylor's spirit was there that day, and I was able to forgive myself for my own failings and insecurities.
See next post for details on the shoot.