Friday, September 17, 2010

Timing is everything

One year ago, I had attempted to ride 200 miles in honor of what I was sure to be Darlene's second victory over cancer. I fastened the button that Darlene has made with her top consultants at Seminar to my handlebars so that our photo together led the way. But, I didn't make it. I came close, but not close enough. But she was proud of me, and knew it was done with love and every intention I had.

This year, I was intent on finishing the NYC Century - just the 100 miles. I moved the button onto my Bianchi, so I could see the pink rimmed adornment everytime I looked down to remember that I was going to finish this year for her. While I didn't conventionally finish it, I ended up finishing 95 miles. I knew Darlene had been moved into hospice this past week. But I'd also heard about how lively and vibrant she was at Seminar. I expected that it would have been temporary. That she'd be victorious again.

I was literally, moments ago, in the midst of writing her a letter, complete with photos of this year's ride (with her photo on my bike, again) to let her know I was thinking and still "loving on her" and that I was fighting for her on Sunday, when I saw an update on Facebook:

It is with tremendous sadness that I share the passing of our extraordinary Sr. Natl. Director Darlene Berggren (with me in my profile pic) with you. My heart aches. I trust that Darlene is resting in Jesus arms and that He has got amazing assignments for her in Eternity! Please continue to pray for her family...husband Denny, children Marc and Beth. Thank you with love. 13 minutes ago
On one monitor, a letter of hope and encouragement, of thanks and admiration and the vision of a cancer-free future with the promise I'd gear up my Mary Kay business and earn a spot along her side at Seminar 2011. On the other, Darlene's smiling face from this year's seminar, which I missed, looking vibrant and spunky with her epitaph posted and her passing announced. Such a dichotomy.

I know what some people like to say about Mary Kay. That the cosmetics are cheap. That it's a scam. It's a pyramid scheme. A cult of red-jacket wearing housewives with nothing better to do than to beat other women into submission and coerce them to buy makeup that they don't need. (And, yes, I've seen the parodies and cartoons.) It's easy to make that assumption from afar, and without being able to see what it's really about.

Meeting Darlene, however, would show you immediately what it was really about within 5 minutes flat. Of course the stereotypes exist. And, yes, some consultants go insane with being pushy and only trying to get to the next rung of directorship for the diamonds and the Cadillacs and the like. (And, having earned some of the jewels - including the necklace/earring set I'm wearing in my photo with Darlene to the right, and seen them first-hand, you really can't blame the ladies for clawing their way to win them.) But, after some time, the novelty wears off and you're left with what Darlene embodied: It's a business, but not a callous corporate climb. It's about inspiration. About helping women find their potential and allowing them to discover what makes them incredible, which, in turn, turns them from the student to the master. And they, in turn, simply by sharing their story and the same opportunity everyone starts with, inspiring a dream that can come true.

Darlene was a Senior National Sales Director with Mary Kay. I'm sure many reading this think, "Ok, so she was queen of a horde of a few converted houseladies." Oh no, my friends. She didn't just bake cookies and send warm fuzzies to ladies while patting them on the head. This was a woman who led about 50 Directors (each of whom have a team of at least 30 consultants below them). This was in addition to guiding 3 Directors to become Nationals, and therefore peers. Darlene mentored Mary Kay's youngest and fastest moving National Director on record, Allison LaMarr.

So, you would think a woman this busy wouldn't be able to do much more than send an encouraging word once in a while to a struggling wannabe consultant in Podunk, NY who was really having a hard time to qualify for directorship, no? Imagine my surprise and thrill when I got word from Darlene through Lisa Allison, my Future National Director, and Anita Kaplan, my Director, that she wanted to work with me through my final weeks of qualification. She spent hours on the phone with me, helping me strategize, figuring out how much money I'd need to earn weekly to pay my bills, how much product I'd need to sell to pay my mortgage, etc. No, I didn't qualify to become a director, but I came really close. And, though out of work and, as a result, in a terrible financial place, I was surviving. Most of my bills were getting paid. I had a growing business. I was helping other women back on their feet.

And I felt part of a sisterhood that I'd never felt before. I not only had a Mary Kay mentor and director, but I had a Mary Kay "mommy."

As life "happened", as we put it in Mary Kay, I put my MK business on hold for a bit to reorganize, get LIVESTRONG going, so I could get back into a place where I could devote the time and attention my MK business deserved.

I was planning to do it with Darlene's guidance in a year or so. Because her loss to cancer wasn't an option, in my mind. Here's a woman who started out just like I did and ended up in a dream home in Colorado, with hundreds of women looking up to her. She was invincible. She'd beaten cancer once, and in really great time. She was thriving and beautiful.

And then I saw the update. And I realize that she is the second in my Mary Kay family that I've lost to cancer this year. First, Carolyn, my flame-haired comedic comrade, and now Darlene, a woman I was proud of and admired tremendously. It's just not right. Darlene, I'm sorry I didn't do more with my MK business this year. I'm sorry, as a result, that I didn't feel that I earned the right to go to Seminar. I'm sorry I missed the chance to hug you one last time. I regret tremendously that I missed out on what I heard was an inspiring speech.

See the impact she had on people on her site: A page was set up for the women and consultants around the world that she touched as encouragement for her, and now, one another. It's a testimony to what she meant to us.

In Austin, I'll be bringing that photo button with me. Forgive me, I have to end this blog and update my "Wall of Strength" by changing her FIGHTER status to IN OUR MEMORY. It's remarkable how changing a few pixels on a virtual "page" can be such a difficult task when your heart is heavy.

Please consider helping me fight for Darlene's memory with LIVESTRONG.

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