Tonight I went to a meeting of the Adventist Women’s Association — fairly rare for me, since I only manage to make AWA meetings when they’re doing something particularly interesting. Tonight definitely qualified, as we were going to Gail Dempsey’s house to hear her talk about her experience with breast cancer.
If I had to name the top ten women outside my own family who have been influential and inspirational in my life, Gail would definitely make the list. She has been a church friend throughout most of my life; she is about 10 years older than I am and I taught one of her children in school and had both in my Sabbath School class and youth group for many years when I was a church youth leader. Gail and her husband Erin have been around for so many of the milestones in my life — in fact, I’m pretty sure Gail gets some of the credit for getting Jason and me together in the first place (long story).
Gail had surgery for breast cancer last year, and the fact that she chose to celebrate this occasion by inviting all the church women to her house to inform and educate them about breast cancer says everything about her. Many years ago when her eldest child was diagnosed with epilepsy, Gail’s response was to found Epilepsy Newfoundland and Labrador, an organization which didn’t exist in this province until she started it. She is a person who meets things head-on and never backs down from a challenge.
For so much of my life I’ve observed that the typical “good church lady” is self-effacing, quiet, meek and traditional in all her views. None of those terms applies to Gail: she is loud, outspoken, funny, opinionated, a feminist, an activist, and the best church lady I know. Tonight she whipped out her breast and showed her lumpectomy scar to 25 church ladies and gave us an hour of funny, insightful, moving commentary on what it was like to go through this experience. I wish I’d brought a camera so I could illustrate this with a photo — not of Gail’s breast! but of Gail herself — so that those of you who don’t know her could catch a glimpse of this tough, beautiful and amazing woman. I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting at her house tonight!
A quick look at the NaNo stats for those following this saga: I’m up to 9231 words and have finished my second chapter; I still like the way the story’s going, and today I met with fellow NaNo’ers Natalie and Lori for a write-in at Chapters/Starbucks. That was another time I wished I’d had the camera as a shot of the three of us at one table with our three laptops up and running would have captured the spirit of NaNoWriMo … but again, 1000 words (or less) will have to replace the picture.