I had just finished the Komen Race on Saturday when I saw the message from the Caring Bridge: "Eileen is losing her battle with cancer but her spirit and love remain as strong as ever."
Spirit. Love. Strong. All words that perfectly describe Eileen.
It took me over five years of asking before Eileen agreed to be on The Rose Board of Directors…she had just retired and had lots of other things she wanted to do. Of course, she didn't 'do nothing' during that time. In her normal 'let me see how I can help' fashion, she introduced us to Jeanne Gillen who did join us. Even so, Eileen was always in the background, generously supporting our events and finally in 2013 she agreed to serve. I'm so glad she did.
My fondest memory of Eileen was last September when she traveled to Lufkin to join us to introduce our new Mobile Mammography Health Coach to that community. The T.L.L. Temple Foundation had been a huge underwriter of the Coach and we were there to thank their Board of Directors and let them be the first to see it. Eileen in her unassuming way simply 'took over' and in a matter of minutes had engaged and charmed everyone.
That evening she took my staff to dinner. Eleven of us sat at a long table and she proceeded to tell us the story of the Circles and how important it is to 'let people help.' Only one woman at the table had been through cancer and Eileen's sharing gave all the others a chance to see into a woman's life and truly understand what it means to go through cancer. Her story was so personal and compelling, we were all touched. It was a gift beyond gifts.
She also shared that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer she had insurance, a wonderful caring husband and family to support her, and friends that were always there for her. She ended saying, "I don't know how anyone gets through this disease without that kind of support." She knew our uninsured women don't have that support or many options; that was one of the reasons why she was so passionate about The Rose.
During her time on our Board and especially as Chair of the Board, she was never reluctant to ask the 'hard' questions and equally willing to help me through those 'hard' decisions. I could talk to her about anything and she'd put on her 'business hat' along with her 'caring hat' and guide me through whatever situation I brought. She always made time for The Rose and me.
Eileen continues to impact the women we serve. Last week, we added a new board member who she initially recruited. She agreed to let us share her story of the Circles and the comfort it has brought to so many has been heartwarming. Her gifts sponsored hundreds of women. Her insistence on excellence brought out our very best. And her wisdom will last long after this day and allow us to reach so many more.
And, I know without any doubt that I will continue to be guided by her spirit, encouraging me on, assuring me The Rose can get it done.
Thank you Eileen. Your time with us is something I will treasure forever.