Sorrow threw a blanket on my thoughts this week. This beautiful soul, Tonya Muro, left us far too soon and far too suddenly. Her family and friends are having to come to terms with this massive level of heartbreak. And while I was not a close friend, Tonya has been on my mind all week. I can almost feel her presence at odd moments throughout the day. So in an effort to honor the life and legacy she left, I’ll start with this simple post.
I first met Tonya Muro and her brother sometime around the mid-1980’s in Chicago, when I was twenty-something and they were teens. They impressed me as sweet and kind and very grounded. Fast forward several years to about 2008 or so. I’m about to travel to an ISTE conference (International Society for Technology in Education) and, through Facebook connections, I learn that Tonya is now working with the Global Nomads Group (GNG) and is scheduled to present a workshop at the conference.
We connect via Facebook and then meet briefly in person. I attend her workshop and watch as she confidently discusses GNG’s work with youth. We catch up over coffee and remain Facebook friends after that. Years pass and still I don’t see her in person, only on Facebook. I love watching her posts from afar as she journeys through life, both as a mother and a professional in the global education arena. She has two beautiful twin girls. She moves from Global Nomads to AFS Intercultural Programs to iEarn-USA. I so admire her choices in life — choosing service to a better world, choosing to be the absolute best mother to her twin daughters, choosing to work towards lofty goals to educate and connect youth in all corners of the globe. I imagine I will see her at some gathering in the future. I never imagine I won’t see her again.
In previous posts I’ve lamented the fact that life is so short, and we never know what tomorrow will bring. Truly, truly, reality hits me once again. We must remember to cherish every moment with those we love, those we admire, those who may never cross our path again.
The good folks at iEarn-USA, where Tonya was Executive Director, have posted this. And then there’s this post on Medium by Lucy Gray as well.
I want to close with special thanks to her sister-in-law, Layli Miller-Muro, for bringing the following quote to mind:
“Under duress great things are born. Diamonds form in molten stone. The sweetest flowers of man’s spirit have often been watered by tears. To struggle gives strength, to endure breeds a greater capacity for endurance. We must not run away from our heartbreaks in life; we must go through them, however fiery they may be, and bring with us out of the fire a stronger character, a deeper reliance on ourselves and on the Creator Who, like a good Parent, chastises us because He loves us and because He knows what can be made out of us and that the pain is worth the prize that can be won…. Love, hate, passion, fear, sorrow, pain — they act on us and spur us on, they develop our qualities and give us colour and individuality. Why should we want to shun and abolish some of the factors that bring out the best in us, that temper our steel, that teach us to value happiness at its true worth? Can a man who has never been hungry in all his life know what a piece of bread means, savour all its sweetness, as can a man who has starved? … We are not expected to like suffering; we should not foolishly think of it as some ascetics do, as a virtue in itself and cultivate it through self-mortification and torture; but we should when the cup is at our lips and we have no choice but to drink it, drink it down strongly and courageously, knowing it will hurt but strengthen, wound but eventually heal…. Beauty can give joy, love can give happiness, knowledge can convey peace of mind, pain can give strength, sorrow can deepen the whole nature of a person…. We must try to get out of every experience in life the very best it can offer.
We must also accept the fact that there are some things in this life we are not going to be able to understand here and now…. God, with all that term implies, cannot be unjust any more than He can be unloving. Nothing could be more unjust or unkind than to set a man an impossible task, to require of him something beyond his strength to do. The trials that come to us in life come to test our strength and to exercise and perfect it. We are not set tasks that we cannot accomplish, we are not tyrannized over by God. On the contrary, He sets the hurdle a little higher because he knows we are now ready to make that jump if we try, and what is more, He will help us. The Friend of the soul of man is there and He wants us to win, to grow strong, to be worthy of the heritage He has prepared for us; He is therefore ready to lend a helping hand if we call Him; if we fling out ours towards his, He will grasp it firmly.”
Ruhiyyih Khanum (1950). Prescription for Living, Chapter 8 [Kindle version]. Retrieved from https://bahai-library.com/khanum_prescription_living