You never know when the curtain of someone’s life will close. Jennifer Michehl entered my life over 20 years ago. She told me I was like the big sister she’d never had. I was honored when she frequently she said she could tell me anything. I didn’t try to fill any certain role for her – just be myself.
I’d thought and prayed about what an odd situation this was, having a step-daughter only 7 years younger. But Jennifer had a lot of inner turmoil, so I felt as if she were many years younger than me.
Some people said I was a healing balm for her. I’m not sure if this is true, but I always tried to be there for her. Sometimes people asked why I drove so far, took so much time, and spent so much energy to travel up to Ferndale. I’m sure I failed at times, but overall tried to encourage, listen, and hear Jennifer’s heart.
We often kayaked – sometimes among the starfish, seals and eagles, with the mountains sparkling their majesty against the backdrop. One day an eagle swept down and, with swift precision, pierced a fish. He grasped the meal with his talons and flew off with pride.
We usually kayaked on a lake near Jennifer’s home, and stopped to eat lunch at an area in which noone else could access. We giggled, laughed, talked, and she shared deeply from the heart. I just tried to listen, to be there, and to be me – whatever that means.
She loved her parents and brother, Jeff, dearly, and adored her dad.
But since I wasn’t her parent, that offered a distinctly different avenue of relationship. This made it easier, in some ways, to pour out her concerns.
I felt part of my life calling was to encourage her, to listen to her and to – sometimes – call her to glory. I challenged my step daughter, answered a myriad of various types of questions over the years, and always loved her no matter what.
There was nothing she didn’t ask me. Of course, I can’t offer examples of this as I want to honor her.
But her father and I refused to enable her, and she resented this. I told her frequently that I would always love her, no matter what. Yet it was her responsibility to dig herself out of the holes she’d dug.
I’d heard people call their step mothers “Stepmonsters” on occasion. One day I mentioned this to Jennifer, and we laughed so hard, we could hardly breathe. Thereafter, of course, Jennifer called me Stepmonster. 😉
I like to use dental flossers (similar to toothpicks) for my teeth because I can’t stand food caught between my teeth. We all have our idiosyncrasies, and that’s one of mine. So Jennifer regularly teased me about this. We enjoyed many laughs over my love of dental flossers.
As you can imagine, we have cried rivers of tears in our household since March 18. A few days ago, I was shedding tears for the crater left in my heart. I opened my bathroom drawer, and “tada,” an entire bag of flossers had spilled. I chuckled through the tears, and could almost hear Jennifer laughing, saying, “Oh Stepmonster, you and your flossers!”
I enjoyed my role as “Stepmonster,” and miss this fun, bubbly, sparkling daughter/sister of George, Barb, and Jeff. Of course, I wasn’t the parent, I wasn’t the anything. I just tried to be the best Stepmonster I could be.
Although the curtain on Jennifer’s life stage closed early, she is forever in glory, dancing, singing, hanging out and having a grand time with Jesus.
I will love you and miss you forever, Jennifer. I’ll see you on the other side of the curtain. ~