As I mentioned in my previous post, my friend and co-worker, Olga, was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. Olga is a toddler room teacher and taught both of my girls. Olga helped me get both of them started with potty training. She taught them to drink from a cup, she taught them sign language, she taught them basic skills, but most of all, she taught them to love and help ALL their friends.
When we would get to school when Hailey was two, she would say we were at “Olga’s house.” She loved going to school and would run to hug Olga right away. Leah has always been reluctant to enter any classroom, but Olga would take her over to the window with the bird feeder to look for birds. This was their routine almost every morning.
I was very fortunate to be with Olga last Thursday when she had her hair cut for Locks of Love. Even in her last days, her thoughts are with how she can help others. The article Jonathan Owens wrote about Olga is below. The article appeared in Friday’s Sanford Herald. I was so glad and thankful that Jonathan and Brooke were able to come to Olga’s house on such short notice to report on this event.
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to get to know some of Olga’s family over the past few weeks. We have shared some great stories and we have gotten to know Olga even better through the eyes of her family members. One of her sons gave Lindsay and I each a cancer awareness bracelet today and it is something I will always treasure. You can certainly see that Olga has passed on her giving spirit to her family.
When asked what message she wanted to leave with her family and friends, Olga said simply, “Make every day special.” Every morning for as long as I can remember, as soon as I wake up, I try to think of something special that is going to happen that day…something to get excited about and get me motivated to start the day (I am NOT a morning person…or even a mid-morning person).
Now, I try to keep Olga’s message in my head all day. I challenge you to do the same. Seize the moment. How can you make today special? How can you make it special for those around you and those you care about?
Today was special because I got to visit with Olga and show her pictures of Hailey’s recital and Leah’s birthday party. I had a wonderful conversation with her and got to tell her I have missed her. Today was special for my kids because they got to have dessert…on a SCHOOL night (this is a RARE treat b/c sugar makes them nuts). Today was special because my husband brought me home a different color of my favorite flip-flops as a surprise. Today is special because even though I want to continue to catch up my blog and my work, I am going to put my laptop down now to snuggle my kids.
SANFORD — Throughout her life, Olga Horton has given so much of her time and energy to others that what was perhaps her last gesture of goodwill didn’t surprise anyone who knows her.
On Thursday, suffering from terminal stomach cancer, Horton cut off 14 inches of her long black hair to donate to Locks of Love, a nonprofi t organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children 18 years and younger who are suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
It was the third time Horton, 54, had made the hair donation, but it may be the most special.
Horton’s cancer caught her whole family off-guard. A frequent volunteer at Lee County’s annual Relay for Life event, Horton had no family history of the illness and no fear of it until the day in early April doctors found the tumors.
The doctors deemed her condition too far along to respond to chemotherapy or any other treatments. She has opted to live out her final days at home, with her friends and family close by her side.
Still, with an everpresent smile that all who know her said is her trademark, Horton bravely sat down for an old friend to snip her locks one last time Thursday.
“I’ve always thought I should donate as much as I can,” she said of her three hair donations. “So a part of me can help someone else.” Before the illness, Horton was a guiding force that touched many lives through her work as a teacher at Stepping Stones UCP Learning Center, a child care facility in town that caters to both special needs and normally developing children.
Often arriving as early as 4:30 a.m. each day, well before any of her colleagues, she took her place in the children’s lives seriously and the kids there recognized it.
Since she has been gone battling the disease, the children ask for her almost daily, according to her coworkers. “The children take to Olga more quickly than any other teacher,” her co-worker Lindsay Soebbing said. “That’s just a special gift she has. It’s Olga’s house.”
Likewise, her importance as amember of First Baptist Church has not gone unnoticed, either.
Friends from her Sunday School class gathered along her side as well to share the moment Thursday.
“No matter what, she always has that smile that she shares with everybody,” said classmate Nancy Turner. “She has this quiet spirit about her that we will miss when she is not there.” And her extended family are also grateful that Horton touched their lives. Most of her eight siblings have come to Lemon Springs this weekend from all around the country — from Texas to New York — to celebrate her life.
Her sister, Sandy Suderman, said her big sister has been a kind and caring person her whole life.
“We always knew that God had put her in a special place,” Suderman said. “Growing up she was a magnet to old people and babies. Anyone in need Olga would always gravitate to them.”
For all the many coworkers, friends and family that surround her this weekend, while her beloved Relay is under way at the Lee County Fair grounds, she has but one piece of advice.
“Make every day special,” she said. “I hope they can learn from this experience to live life to the fullest.”