Sarah Stultz: Learning from a child about enjoying life

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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For most of her life, my daughter had long hair.

I enjoyed finding ways to put it up as it seemed like by the end of the day otherwise it would be tangled up and full of knots.

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I remember how excited I was when she was a toddler, and she finally had enough hair to put up in a single ponytail on the top of her head.

Over the years, we tried out pigtails, ponytails, braids and combinations of all three.

A few weeks before she died, Sophie decided she wanted to get her hair cut.

I wasn’t thrilled about it, but there are much worse things she could have wanted, so I let her go through with it. She ended up with hair that was about shoulder length or just a little shorter.

It wasn’t as easy to put her hair up after that, but that didn’t matter to her. In those last days I remember her more with her hair down.

I also remember attending her art show up in Faribault where she and the other students in the Freeborn County Arts Initiative were showcasing their art at the Paradise Center for the Arts. That day, there was an open house, and I asked my friend to join me and my son and drive up there as my husband didn’t get off work until a little later. Sophie had gone up earlier with her fellow artists and their teacher.

When we got there, Sophie was so proud to show me her art. Being the proud mom that I was, I got a picture in front of the pieces she had on display there, and then we all went to do a little walking in downtown Faribault.

Sophie decided she wanted to enter a cupcake-eating contest that was happening outside on the sidewalk. After a few big bites and trying to eat quickly, I remember her eyes got big and I wasn’t sure if she would continue on. Her fellow students were there cheering her on from the sidelines.

Also that summer, Sophie decided she wanted to go up in a plane as part of the Young Eagles Flight Rally that happens most years at the Albert Lea Airport.

I remember standing in what seemed like sweltering temperatures with my son, Landon, and Sophie as we waited in line. Landon was too young to participate and we had to keep him busy until it was her turn.

After waiting for the other children in front of us to have their turn, the time finally came for Sophie to have her own chance at it.

Being the worrywart mom that I am, I remember being anxious as Sophie prepared to board one of the small airplanes and then went on to board it. Before I knew it, she disappeared for a few minutes into the sky in the plane, and Landon and I waited for her back on the ground.

I was excited for her to try something new but at the same time was nervous for her to return.

When she landed back on the ground, she was smiling ear to ear.

Sophie loved trying new things and never let anything stop her.

She didn’t care what others thought, how she would look or if she was scared. Even if she was a little afraid, she didn’t let that keep her from trying something new.

As I thought more about my daughter this week on what would have been her 15th birthday, I have thought about her zest for life.

I hope I can be more like her someday when I grow up.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune.