By Boot Girl Myra with Special Guest Mindy Sue
To what lengths, or heights would you go for a complete stranger? Would you come to the rescue of someone on the side of the road? Perhaps you’d give some spare change to the person in front of you at the grocery store who is 5 cents short on their bill. Maybe you are one of those families who takes great joy in buying the food for the car behind you in the drive-thru lane. How about jumping out of a plane? Mmmm, yeah, right.
Let me introduce you to Mindy Sue Rawlinson. She is completely THAT girl. The one who would jump out of a plane in honor of someone she’s never met. It’s not like she didn’t know JT, but it was through email communication only, and it was very short-lived, in a very tragic way. Mindy struck up a friendship through mutual friends with Jon Tumilson, an active-duty Navy SEAL who was KIA on August 6th in Afghanistan. There had been less than 30 days of communication between them at the time of his death. A famous quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., “it’s not the quantity but the quality of one’s life that matters most”, is well-applied for Mindy’s story. In less than 30 days it was the quality of a friendship that became life-changing, not the amount of time spent together, because there wasn’t any. The quality of their conversation challenged Mindy to do something about her bucket list not just talk about it.
In her own words, and as a means to process acute grief for her new friend, Mindy wrote this email to JT after learning of his death:
I want to say thank you for all that you’ve done. You died doing what you believed in. You died doing what you loved. And most of all, you died fighting for all of the “freedom you loved so much” (couldn’t have said it better myself). You were the type of man most men strive to be. What you accomplished in your 35 years is much more than 10 men combined do over a lifetime. You’ve inspired me to continue to live my life fully. I plan on taking full advantage of the freedoms that you so gracefully ensured we have here in the United States. I also promise you that I’ll do all the things I talked about in my emails…I will run that marathon. I will sky dive again. I will go to Italy. I will get some “east coast culture up in me”. I’ll also make sure to eat a LOT of pumpkin pie in honor of you this holiday season. But one thing I promise I WON’T do is forget you.
You’ve inspired me to be an honorable, driven woman who will not settle for anything less. I’ve tried to figure out why I “met” you and what I am supposed to take from this … not sure I have an answer yet. But, maybe it’s just that…to always strive to be the best and appreciate every moment I have (with all those that I love).
After a few months of restlessness, Mindy decided it was time to make good on one of those promises in hopes it would not only honor JT, but help her cope with the confused feelings of grief for a friend whom she’d never met. She put on some dog tags she purchased from JT’s sister Joy, who had them made for people who wanted to honor her brother. She also put on some combat boots she’d bought from the Boot Campaign, got in a plane and began her ascent into the wild blue yonder.
Grief can be cathartic at times. This would be one of those times. Mindy went on her dive in tandem with the sky-diving instructor, also an unknown to her. He too was grieving that day, and his dive was to honor his parents who had passed away. Just imagine: complete strangers, grieving together, one for the loss of love from a lifetime spent together, the other for none.