When I read the weekly prompt asking about a woman who had influenced me, my cousin Nancy came to mind first. Although we lost her to cancer four years ago, she remains ever present in my life.

Nancy was one of my older cousins. We were sisters in spirit and close throughout her life. As a child, I spent much time with her but it was when she was in college that we began a deeper and different relationship. She would drive from East Lansing to Bay City to pick me up for a weekend with her. I was in my early teens but she treated me like I was older, like I certainly could understand the things we discussed as she shared politics, history, and books with me. She took me to restaurants and introduced me to new foods, took me to book stores, and movies. When I was older we shared our mutual love of roller coasters with trips to Cedar Point where we spent the day only riding roller coasters over and over again.

Those trips were all fun, but there are more important ways she influenced me. Nancy showed me what was possible for a life. She followed her dreams to live and work in Japan and India. She traveled the world throughout her life. I don’t know when she began attending meditation retreats but that became an important part of her life and she shared that with me. She worked hard and was a successful corporate vice president but she also knew how to stop and take time away. She demonstrated the importance of balance, of self care before it became a thing that is popular.

I spent a week with her shortly before she passed. She slept a great deal but she shared music, and books, lessons she still wanted to pass on to me. I am forever grateful for her example and her life.

Millie Jackson