Friday 23 December 2011

Favourite Thing- Julia Turner

Every Friday I write about something that is one of my favourite things. This week, in honour of Christmas, all entries were going to be Christmas themed or inspired.

Seeing how this is my blog, I can be forgiven for going off course.

I am home for the holidays and took the time this morning to go to my high school- I wanted to see a long time (family) friend who works there, I had something to drop off to the principal and I needed to see my former guidance counsellor (about a scholarship given to a graduating student).

I started by seeing the family friend. She told me that Julia had died that morning. I was shocked and sadden, at a loss for words.

I saw the principal, and spoke to him briefly. No mention of Julia, but I knew (because Karen had told me) that he was working on what he was going to say about Julia.

I went to guidance. While I was there, the principal came on over the P.A. system and announced to the student body that Julia had died that morning. His tribute of words were beautiful, as was the prayer that was said. I am blessed that I was there and feel lucky that I learned of Julia's passing while in the school, a place I still consider 'home'. The Chapel was opened and students were told that they were welcome to go there if they needed.

One of the guidance counsellors stayed in the guidance office, one was walking the halls checking on students and the other was in the chapel to offer support. My guidance counsellor was the one going to the chapel. She said to me, before I left, that Mr. Turner was always the one who was best at comforting students in times like this.

Julia's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Turner, are both teachers at the school.

Julia was 15 and died of cancer. In May, she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. I didn't know her well, only having met her a handful of times. But she was always happy, smiling, laughing and a lot of fun to be around.

Her story and journey has touched thousands. She is seen, remembered, as inspirational, brave and a role model. Again, I consider myself blessed to have known her.

While I didn't know Julia (or her two sisters) well, I did know her parents extremely well.

Her mom, teaches science and the parenting class. I never had her as a teacher.

Her dad teaches Religion and is head of the Religion department. I never had him as a teacher either.

Her mom, also a breast cancer survivor, was responsible for organizing the school Toy Drive. Each home room class would be assigned a (needy) family and be responsible for buying gifts for that family. Mrs. Turner and student volunteers (which I was one of) would collect the toys from each home room and transport them to the local Christmas Bureau where the parents could pick up the gifts. Some classes would donate money instead of gifts, some staff, alumni or friends of the school would also donate money. Mrs. Turner would organize some student leaders (again, I was one of them) to go to the mall and pick out stuff.

Her dad, would organize several food drives throughout the year. He was also in charge of Social Climate- a group of student leaders that were responsible for several activities around the school and were seen as a sort of peer welcoming committee, very similar to a 'Perfect'. Mr. Turner and Social Climate oversaw the Walk Against Male Violence, Multi-Cultural Week/Assembly, Pilgrimage (a walk for our brothers and sisters in the third world, raising over $30,000 annually). This group promoted tolerance and social justice, and would often organize one off events, such as a candle light walk that we did in September of 2001 after the 9/11 attacks to show solidarity with the US.

Mr. and Mrs. Turner both organized students to serve at the local soup kitchen. They worked with the needy, homeless and less fortunate on a regular basis. They were big advocates of fair trade.

Something else that they did?

They hosted barbecues in September and June and a Christmas pot luck in December. They would open their home and invite students over to socialize. The invited students were members of Social Climate, students who were new to the school, exchange students or students who were seen by peers as 'outcasts'. They wanted everyone to feel welcomed and routinely reached out to students. Even after I graduated, as I stayed involved with the school, I would be invited to these events.

It was at the barbecues and pot lucks were I would see Julia and her sisters. Julia was always the most energetic of her sisters. I have a picture taken years ago of Julia and her sisters playing dress up with a classmate of mine. It was taken at the Christmas Social.

Ten years ago, December 26, 2011, my mom went into a coma. I saw Mr. Turner a few days later and told him. He hugged me and comforted me. He told me that him, Mrs Turner and the girls would be praying for her. He said to let him know if I need anything. Mr. Turner led morning prayer and when school resumed after Christmas break, every morning my mom was in a coma (27-29 days, I can't remember exactly) he would have the students pray for her.

There were days, when my mom was in a coma, that were tough for me. Mr. and Mrs Turner were always available to talk, offer hugs, prayer, words of support. They offered to watch my sister, who was in grade one at the time, if needed. There were days were Mr. Turner would sign me out of classes and let me hid out in his office. He would even sign a friend out so I wouldn't have to be alone. He opened the chapel for me.
I know that I was able to make it through that time because of Mr. and Mrs Turner. I know without them...I would be a different person. I wouldn't have handled the situation as well as I did.

I also know that the Turner's influenced me and my direction in life greatly.

I always thought I would be a politician or a businesswoman. I thought I'd be tough, powerful, icy. I saw myself as the stereotype power woman. That was my goal. I wanted to be powerful, influential, respected, well-known.

The Turner's opened my eyes to philanthropy. To giving, to charity, to non-profit. They showed me that you can be powerful, influential, respected and well-known without being in the corporate world. It is because of Mr. and Mrs. Turner that I decided that I wanted to go into non-profit fundraising. I currently work in non-profit fundraising...and I know if it weren't for Mr. and Mrs. Turner, I wouldn't be where I am today.

My heartbreaks for the Turner Family. I can't imagine what they are going through or dealing with. I am so sorry for their loss. They are such amazing people...No words would do them justice as to how amazing they actually are. I'm left wondering why God would let something like this happy to such a good family...A family that leads a Catholic lifestyle and follows His teachings. They are good people. Great people, a great family.

The holidays are supposed to be such happy, joyful times... I find it hard to be in the holiday spirit, to want to celebrate. But I think...What a great gift for Julia- she gets to meet her Maker. Plus she's no longer in pain or suffering. But how lucky is she... gets to meet God and Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

Julia- You have touched and inspired so many people in your lifetime. You truly made a difference in the lives of so many. You will be remembered for your ever smiling face, for your courage, for your strength. Rest in peace.

Turner Family- My thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. You were blessed to have Julia as a daughter and sister. Take comfort in knowing she is in a better place and that her love and memory will live on in all the lives she has touched. I pray that God will give you the strength to get through this difficult time. You, and Julia, are loved and cared for by so many.

So wrap Your arms around her Lord and give her special care.
Make up for all she suffered and all that seemed unfair.

Rest In Peace Julia
December 23, 2011

Julia Turner's Facebook Page- Please check it out to see how loved Julia and her family are.

Please keep Julia and the Turner family in your thoughts and prayers.

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