Last year at about this time, I was planning a going-away party for my best friend Nancy Cooper. It was a difficult party to plan, not only because of the emotional burden – I was so sad she was leaving, but so supportive of the move and excited for her at the same time – but also because the date was a moving target. Nancy's moving date was not in her control, as she had no financial resources of her own beyond a weekly cash allowance. With no access to a credit card, she could not arrange for the moving van.
Even given this constraint, Nancy had managed to plan a new life for her and her girls in Canada. Her sister Krista had prepared a room for them, and Nancy had set up three job interviews. She had found a pre-school nearby for Bella. At the “Saddest Party Ever” - as I titled it – her large and generous group of friends were all going to bring money to help defray the moving expenses and to help her get on her feet. When the moving van was finally arranged for, I bought a one-way ticket from Canada so that I could help her drive up with the girls. Everything was settled, we thought...she was ready to leave and start over.
Unfortunately, the separation agreement, when it arrived that week, was not signed. The moving van was called off. The move was cancelled. We went ahead and had the party anyway, since selfishly we were happy she was staying – and we wanted to show our unconditional support for her in her very difficult situation. We celebrated her continuing presence in our lives, as we had all feared the hole she would leave when she moved.
Now she is gone forever, and that hole is a terrible chasm. Nancy was the best friend of so many, she was so integral to our lives, and we know we can never replace her. She was the one we called when we were upset, or sad, or angry, and we are more upset, sad and angry than we have ever been.
In the months since Nancy's death, we have questioned how we can bring something positive from this devastation; our answer has become our desire to help other women and children leaving domestic violence situations. This is the chrysalis for Nancy’s Butterfly Fund. Our mission is to minimize the financial obstacles that may prevent women from leaving violent unsafe homes. The fund will provide financial assistance for individuals and families participating in InterAct’s programs and services. Specifically, the assistance fund may help with apartment and utility deposits, childcare, education, food, transportation and other basic financial needs and services. In essence, this is what we were prepared to do for Nancy at her going-away party, but we have realized that not everyone has access to that kind of help.
To honor Nancy, we have planned several events to raise funds for Nancy's Butterfly Fund – first, a black-tie optional Gala which we are sure that Nancy would have been excited to buy a dress for on June 13th, and second, a Family Fun Run on the anniversary of her death. We hope these upcoming events help us to remember Nancy's wonderful spirit, and to share her zest for life with the community.
Sometimes financial obstacles make the difference between leaving and staying. If we can help one family reach safety, if we can raise awareness in an abused woman that this is not her fault, and that it can happen to anyone, if we can save one life – well, it will never be enough, but it will be a start.