picture of Linnea Strauss, wife, mother, ballet dancer.

One Woman’s Life Can Touch so Many Others – Linnea Joy Strauss

 February 22, 2018

My all-time favorite Christmas movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. I love it because it reminds me how one person can touch so many more lives than they realize. In fact, as I’ve been thinking about it over the past few weeks, I think it is my favorite movie period, regardless of the genre. It has a positive message that gives me hope that what I am doing in my life has meaning and purpose that goes beyond what I can see.

I’ve been thinking about this because of the recent death of a young woman I never met, yet who has touched my life, Linnea Joy Strauss. Linnea, a dance instructor and owner of a local dance school, has been valiantly fighting cancer for the past five years. She was pregnant with her fourth child when the cancer was diagnosed.

When I first heard about her situation, I thought,”There’s a story here.” I was working on the first book of my Dancing Through Life Series, Dancing on a High Wire. I wanted to write about women who were knocked off-balance by life circumstances who not only got back up, but who got back up and danced. Women who thrived, not just survived. Linnea’s story seemed perfect for this so I added her to my cast of characters as Joy Reese. (I didn’t know until recently that Linnea’s middle name was Joy – a happy coincidence.)

When life mimics fiction

From this I made up my character. After that first book, I felt these characters had more to tell and so I went on to write more books. It had not been my intent when I wrote that first book to have Joy’s cancer come back. I didn’t want to go on that journey with her and yet as time went on I decided I needed to write that story. I was unpleasantly surprised when I ran into Linnea’s father, my copy-editor, at Meijers and told him I was continuing the story with Joy’s cancer recurring. He told me Linnea’s cancer had recurred as well. Not a happy coincidence.

Fortunately Linnea’s cancer did not progress at the rate my character’s cancer did and she was given four more years to be with her family. During this time I watched and prayed from the sidelines, receiving up-dates now and then from her dad. Over the past year, as her cancer progressed, I, along with many others, followed the progression on Facebook. I have been inspired by her grace and courage as this dreadful disease slowly wasted away her physical body. Yet her faith-filled spirit remained strong. Clips from last year’s recital were played at her memorial service to a packed church – a testimony to that faith.

I never met Linnea, yet I feel I know her:  through her dad, through her posts on Facebook, through my character Joy, through the faces of her students and her children. This one woman has touched many lives.

We hear so little in the media about good people.

Over the past months, the news has been filled with stories of one man, Larry Nassar, who caused so much pain and hurt, not just to the hundreds of young women he abused, but to their families and friends. And most recently we’ve been hearing of another school shooting, leaving seventeen lives gone in the aftermath. One person can cause so much destruction and harm so many lives. Yet for each one of them, there are hundreds of good people like Linnea, living quiet yet heroic lives.

We hear so little about these people but we know they are all around us if we but look. They are our neighbors, friends, church members, family members. They struggle with their own personal challenges yet are able to rise above those challenges to make the world a better place.

Linnea, in her life, did more good than many people who live much longer. And that good will live on after her through her children and the many lives she has touched.

In the aftermath of the Florida school shooting, I find myself wondering:  Isn’t it time that we hear more about what the good people do than the bad? Isn’t it time for people like Linnea to be remembered in news outlets throughout the county and let people who kill and destroy languish in anonymity?

I conclude with a link to the YouTube video shown at Linnea’s Memorial Service. It is a beautiful tribute to a courageous woman who lives on.

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