This is a very personal topic we got into this week, but it hits on some of the things that are most important to us on PG Parental Guidance Needed: friendships and conversations with kids.
A couple of weeks ago, I lost a best friend to cancer. She was such an incredible person and friend, and I am so blessed to have a once-in-a-lifetime person in my life like her. Jana was a huge part of my children’s lives. It was hard to tell them what happened, but we tried to prepare them. They knew she was very sick.
I’m trying to let Jana’s memory live on by teaching my kids that we can honor her by being like her.
Here I’ve edited together some of my conversations with my daughter about Jana. I don’t always know if I’m saying the right things to help her process her grief and feel better, but conversation is always good, right?
Not to spoil the podcast, but in case you don’t have time to listen to the entire thing, I’ll sum up the 3 rules:
1. See your friend as the highest version of themselves and support them in following their dreams.
2. Love and cherish what they love.
3. Know how best to handle them (when they need to be handled with care or have the sense shaken into them or the crazy shaken out of them). And I love this photo of us because my face looks like I was having some sort of meltdown, and Jana is talking me down from a cliff.
The first anecdote I share is about supporting your friend’s dreams. Some of it was lost on my six-year-old daughter so I rushed through it a little bit. But I’ll give you a few more details. I worked at a small cable news sports station. We mostly covered high school sports, but we were growing and trying to branch out with some professional sports segments. Ever year the Turn 2 Foundation held a big golf tournament in Tampa, and I wanted to cover it for our station. I emailed Sharlee Jeter and requested access so we could put together a feature on the good things she, Derek and her family were doing to help kids. She set up for us to have press passes for the weekend event. On Friday, my boss told me, “Sorry, but we don’t have any photographers available for the weekend.” I called Jana and defeatedly told her the interviews wouldn’t be happening, and I’d have to reach out to Sharlee and tell her there was a change of plans. She thought about it, then called me back, and said, “Roxanne, I have an idea.” Her idea was to have my stepdad (who is a photographer) go with me and pose as my videographer. And back in 2006, there was a big difference between a photographer and a videographer. It was the days in our business when we had to have a videographer to operate and carry the big, clunky camera. My stepdad was willing to do it. Amazing! I checked out the equipment and gave him a quick tutorial based on my limited knowledge. When we got to the event at Rattle Fish Grill in Tampa, I was excited to see that we had an amazing set up inside the restaurant (all the other local stations were outside). And we were inside next to ESPN and the YES Network.
As I mentioned, I’d given my stepdad a very brief lesson on camera operation, but I’d failed to show him how to set up the tripod. So he’s fumbling with it, and we are looking like total imposters and catching side eye from the real reporters and photographers from the big-time networks. I grabbed the tripod and ran to a corner to try to figure it out myself. When I think back to this moment, as embarrassing as it was at the time, I’m filled with tears of laughter. And I’m also thankful Jimmy (my stepdad) was so willing to be my hero. And thanks to Jana, I’m reminded there’s always an idea out there to think of to solve a problem and make something big happen. That was a significant assignment. We put together a good interview segment with Derek and his family. The footage was airable, even though the guy shooting the video had never touched a professional TV camera until that night. And that night my (now) husband saw me in person for the first time. I’m sure he couldn’t help but be attracted to the mess of a reporter fumbling and bumbling in the corner with her equipment. (How could anyone resist that?)
Every time Jana and I talked, if she was brainstorming with me or helping me solve a problem, I knew it was going to be good. She’d say, “Roxanne, an idea just popped into my head…” And it was like, hold on tight. Here we go!
We’ve been devastated to lose Jana, but she made our lives magical while she was here, and I’m very much in recognition of the fact that the friendship I experienced is once-in-a-lifetime, but I want to try to be that kind of friend to my loved ones by following the 3 rules.