This weekend was the annual Smiles for Shauna Ball 🙂 on the island, a celebration of a young girls life that ended much too soon. I was going to tell you how I worked at it, the first time I worked out of the house in over ten years, and how tired my body is from it. I was going to describe the variety of sparkly dresses, hairdo’s, tuxedos, and the like. But now that I am actually sitting down to write, that all seems a bit trivial compared to the significance of the event itself. I would really be doing a disservice to Shauna, her family, and all who organized and attended the Ball if I were to focus a moment more of my time with you on anything other than the reason for the gathering.
This is what really matters:
In November 2011, surrounded by her family in their home here on Inis Mor, Shauna Fitzpatrick lost her three-year battle with cancer and passed away at the tender age of sixteen. In 2012 her parents Ann and Pat started a charity in her memory, Smiles for Shauna Ball 🙂 The Ball is only one of the annual events held where all proceeds are donated to the hospital which cared for her. The intent being to help ease some of the suffering of other teenage cancer patients by providing facilities such as a recreational recovery room which, according to Shauna, is an integral part of treatment and recuperation. From what I’ve heard, she was always thinking of others. There is a touching story behind why the smiley face and the charity name, best told here.
I saw Shauna around the island, but I only met her once. We were setting up an event space for a retiring school teacher, unfolding and shifting chairs about. She was there, working side by side with her mother. She was well that day. I wish I’d known her better and had more personal memories of her goodness.
The strength of her parents, her best friends, her schoolmates, neighbours and an entire community could have easily gone unnoticed amid the good cheer and celebration. But then a most poignant moment happened, and there was no doubt why everyone had put in such efforts to present their best selves–to celebrate her life and grieve their loss. The entire room gathered to the dance floor and stood arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder as Shauna’s close friend Peadar Gill performed ‘My Hero’, a hauntingly beautiful song he wrote in memory of Shauna. It’s available on iTunes and all proceeds are donated.
This experience makes me want to be a better person. It’s made me appreciate my children, my husband, my family and friends even more. It’s a reminder of our brevity here on earth– not to make me fear death, but rather to make me smile more about living. 🙂
This is a poem, given to me many, many years ago from a friend. She wrote it out as a riddle for me to solve, but for the sake of this post, I have put it in its original form:
A smile cost nothing, but gives so much. It enriches those who receive it, without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it, and none is so poor but that he can be made rich by it. A smile creates happiness in the home, fosters goodwill in business, and is the countersign of friendship. It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and it is nature’s best antidote for trouble. Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away. Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give.” —B. J. Morbitzer
Thank you, Shauna for your beautiful legacy of kindness, love, and happiness, and demonstrating how easily it can be shared through the universally recognized gesture of a smile. 🙂