08 March 2011

What Women Do!

Today is International Women’s Day. Women everywhere are being celebrated for being the mothers and daughters and sisters, the nurturers, caretakers, educators, workers and givers that we are. The women we have all known, who’ve surrounded us our entire lives. Those who have made us laugh and comforted us when we’ve cried.  I’ve known far too many extraordinary women to ever list them, but I want to mention just a few that illustrate that which never ceases to amaze me - the remarkable range of what women do.

I’ll start with two of my aunts. One, Dr. Lily Macrakis just retired from an educational career that began in Greece, brought her to Radcliffe and Harvard for a PhD and was celebrated last week after she gave more than 50 years of her life to higher education as a university professor and dean. My late Aunt Lela’s education was far more basic but she nonetheless remains the stuff of family legend. One particular story: about 45 years ago her neighbor’s child was diagnosed with diabetes, in the days of much bigger needles. The little boy was terrified to have the daily injections he would need to live his life, so my aunt had him come and practice with her, first on oranges, then on her own two legs until she was poked full of holes and the little boy wasn’t afraid any more.

More recently, there was my high school friend Claire Collier, who died two years ago after a seven-year battle with ALS, the truly horrific, non-curable disease known as Lou Gehrig’s. Claire was fully present for her three children every second of those seven years, making them laugh when they came home from school and ultimately giving them the courage to face her death. The whole while she inspired us all, battling unjust Social Security and Medicare laws all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. And another mutual high school friend, who organized an entire community and created a foundation to help provide Claire and her family with the support they needed.

Then there are the women I’ve met in Monaco, like Annabelle Bond, who looks like a fashion model, has scaled Mt. Everest and all the seven summits, and raised over 1.6 million dollars for the Eve Appeal benefitting Ovarian Cancer in the process. There is the radiologist at the local hospital who treated my cancer with skill and empathy, all the while battling her own. There is Teresa Maxova, a former top model whose foundation supports over 24,000 orphans in her home country of Czechoslovakia. Women like Fabiola Loffredi, who has not only raised two children, worked full time, helped establish the International School of Monaco, but now annually joins a group of women and doctors who trek to the remote village of Rigoan in Nepal. There they teach village women to help themselves, bringing sewing machines and education. They build schools and perhaps most importantly, they bring along other young, privileged students to teach them how to give others the help they need.

Always giving, always teaching, and always teaching to give.  For women everywhere, thank you for all that you are and all that you do.

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