A few weeks ago, I visited Minnesota to give a talk to the ND Club of Minnesota, sponsored by their ND Women Connect group (I happen to run this group in DC). I was looking forward to sharing my story and visiting with one of my ND teammates who lives in the area, but I also met up with an old friend who I had not seen in 15 years. I didn’t know she was going to be there.

There are some people in your life who you do not know well, but they make an impact. You may not see them daily, but you think about them often. I connected with one of these friends in Minnesota. We only met for one week during the fall of her senior at Notre Dame (during my extra semester at ND), and she doesn’t even remember. But I have thought about her often over the past several years: wondering how she was doing and where she was. And then in Minnesota, there she was, doing great.

Mandy was in a car accident during her senior year and suffered a spinal injury. I spent that first week with her family and the University, talking, sitting with them, talking to Mandy and doing my best to provide support for a family that was in shock. I remember so clearly Mandy’s aunt who took control of a situation what was beyond the family’s control. I knew, watching their family interact, that Mandy would be okay. She may not have healed physically as I did, but she had all the tools, support and love to heal emotionally. It was inspiring to watch.

It was even more inspiring to see Mandy in Minnesota. Here was someone with whom I have always felt connected and yet we had lost touch. Here is someone with a strong faith and a strong sense of family and giving – someone who inspires others with her humor; someone who has journeyed through tragedy and makes a difference in people’s lives. Someone who inspires me.

Happy Birthday Mandy. Here’s to many more years of inspiration!