Monday, July 23, 2012

Not Four Years, But For Life

On the Thursday afternoon of our National Convention, we learned that one of our sisters, Jennifer, had passed away. Jennifer was an alum of our Arizona State chapter and lived in St. Louis. I'd never met her. But her passing shook me -- she is a sister. I was shaken in a way that only makes me wonder how much of a mess I would be if it was one of my own chapter's alums; or worse, a sister from my pledge class; a sister from other chapters I've gotten know, gotten to work with. Sisters I've bonded with over running, concerts and traveling; sisters I've met once or see a few times a year.

But what shook me in the best way possible is how much our small, albeit nation-wide, organization came together. Tears from women (like me) who had never met her, who felt the pain of her chapter's members who had to break the news to the eighty of us at our business meeting. Tears because she was still one of us -- she is one of us. And, better yet, bless the ways of social media, creating an online group in which we all wore our letters in some form or another on the Monday following, the day of her services. I was astonished, in the best way possible, of how much sisters were struck by Jennifer's death. Photos from south Texas, from Phoenix, from Boston and Georgia, all deeply touched and in some ways affected by losing our sister.
Letters around the country. [source]
I cried most of Convention. I cried when I got the Facebook message about Jennifer, I cried harder when our National President broke the news. I cried in the song workshop, and I cried at our alumnae induction (where we also posthumously inducted Jennifer). It wasn't only over our loss that I cried, but that, as one sister pointed out, I'd been away from Convention for five years. Though I've stayed active by serving in a few volunteer roles and staying in touch with local chapters whenever I move, being at Convention just confirms everything I've loved about this organization: it's where I belong. For the women I've met and bonded with before, it was like we never missed a beat; for the women I met for the first time, it took a five-minute conversation to build a connection and feel like it had always been there. It made me feel like a five-year absence was no big deal and that I'd been there in spirit all these years prior. What a feeling.

Thanks, SLC!
I'd have plenty of thoughts about my trip to Salt Lake and our convention, but I'm still overwhelmed by a surreal sense of pride and love for my organization. I will tell folks very proudly that I credit OPhiA with keeping me at NAU and firmly believe I would have transferred institutions without her. Through her, I've met some of my best friends, running buddies, concert goers, and constant source of support and gratitude. I'm forever grateful for the fact that I stumbled upon that table at freshman orientation...
Texas State love with our new colony's delegates!

This is what I mean about  belonging. These girls are from my chapter, but until this week I didn't know them. I don't think you could tell that by this photo, could you?

2012 Convention attendees.

Serving as the Vice President for Membership already means the world to me and I really haven't even started yet! I love this organization and hope to continue bringing about great things. Thank you to all my sisters for a wonderful four days, more memories, friends, and Facebook notifications. And thanks for entrusting this position to me!