Like so many of you, I have struggled all week with the loss of sweet Jaelynn Willey. Her death was a personal tragedy for her family and close friends, but it has also impacted the wider community and shaken us to our very core.
I will not pretend to have had a special relationship with Jaelynn, because I did not. I knew her only through the shop where she was a student in some of my classes and a knitter at our table. She and her mom and sisters were Saturday regulars. When they would come in, it was like the sun breaking through clouds - all smiling, happy simply to be there together to knit.
We all spent many pleasant hours together at the table. It's a safe space, and you get to know a lot about a person by knitting with them. You get to see them are when they're relaxed and being only who they really are. It is through that lens that I can share with you how I saw Jaelynn and how I think she made a difference in the shop and in the world.
Jaelynn was a sweet girl, with a shy smile. She was an observer. Not talking all the time, but listening. She would follow the conversation and smile, almost to herself, a the various quips and comments of her mom and sisters and the other knitters. There was a sense of compassion about Jaelynn. She seemed to be the sort of person you could trust with your deepest secrets and she would hold them gently and with kindness.
As the oldest daughter, Jaelynn had an intuitive sense of her place helping out with the younger children. You always saw Jaelynn holding the baby or shepherding her littlest siblings. There was a maternal tenderness about her that was very natural.
As a knitter, Jaelynn liked any yarn, as long as it was teal! She focused on her work and was careful, but like all of us, she made the occasional mistake. But she was not one to go back, preferring instead to regroup and move forward with the knowledge gained.
Although she was young, Jaelynn's life was a treasure. As her mother, Melissa, said in her statement to the world, her life and her family is forever changed. It is important to remember Jaelynn always and let our lives be forever changed not by her death, but by her life -- all that she was and all that she gave to her family and to us.