Mother Teresa said "If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” My mom tirelessly loved us and it is with that foundational love that I’ve learned how to trust myself and look deep within to be the change. Looking back on her life has reminded me a lot of my own and how much she has helped shape it.
Delana “Renee” Jenkins was born on July 7, 1960 and left us on February 20, 2023 at the young age of 62 after a 6.5 year battle with stage 4 breast cancer. She fearlessly faced chemo every 3 weeks up until the last few months of her life, living scan to scan, test to test. She fought her way through some devastating complications along the way, including a 7-day coma 2 years ago. Enough was enough. She was tired. She fought hard and at the end of the day, she still won.
It takes a superhuman amount of courage to battle cancer and she did it with so much grace and love. In her early days of breast cancer, she obsessed over all things pink and vulnerably decorated the yard with pink ribbons, pink boxing gloves and even pink pumpkins. She wanted to inspire the entire neighborhood and she did. She knew how loved she was and boy did she love back. Sometimes her love was stern, but it was always steady and abundant. She was an empowered woman and it makes so much sense why I've felt called for so long to empower other people with the love and strength she ingrained in me.
My mother was preceded in death by her parents, Edward and Bobbie Jean Rhodes. She was happily married to my step-dad, Robert Jenkins, for 17 years and they were together a total of 23. Mom had the deepest, most sincere love for him. One of the first things she said to me over the holidays after a few weeks in the hospital was, "Robert must miss me” and she was right, along with their dog, Bailey, who most days slept curled up between her legs. She loved her family, friends, neighbors, caregivers, former students & patients and countless other individuals who were routinely part of her life. As for me, her only child and daughter (Brooke, aka “Boo”), we had our ups and downs growing up but our relationship matured into a sweet, one-of-a-kind bond that I will always cherish and never be able to replace. She always fought hard for me and it was an absolute honor to fight for and with her.
My mom taught me the importance of taking care of people and showing up matters more than how you show up. She loved her grande Starbucks, sticky notes, and oh how she loved the beach, a good bikini and cold beer. She was protective, incredibly independent and sometimes stubborn – I get it honest. She always had her nails done and lipstick on. She loved to have a good time and her laughter was infectious. Christmas was mom’s favorite and she spared no expense when it came to decorating for every season and boy did this gal love giving and receiving cards, no matter the holiday.
She had a work ethic like no other and blew me away by how much she could accomplish in 24 hours. Mom would still be working in the yard well past sunset and no one could clean the house or wash her car better than her and if you tried, she’d likely go behind you because you missed a spot. My mother could be a bit fiery and always stood up for what and who she believed in. You might not know it, but she was a Harley Davidson girl and loved riding to the OBX and winding roads through the mountains with Robert. She was born a bit wild and taught me how to embrace that part of myself, too. She also made sure I knew the value of a dollar and she did whatever she had to in order to make sure I never went without. She rarely complained, understood the importance of being on time (wish I paid more attention to that one) and was quick to say thank you.
Thanks ma for keeping it real and being my biggest fan and this goes without saying but you were always right. May there be grande size beverages where you are, miles of beautiful beaches, lots of pink and hopefully less to do. It still doesn’t feel real that you’re gone but we are so so thankful you’re forever with us in our hearts because love never ends, it always prevails. Cheers and so much gratitude to the strongest woman and best teacher I know. Peace and ease, mom. We love you. -Boo
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