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In Honor of Toshi

During the early hours of Tuesday, April 30, Toshi passed away. She was an incredible woman who brought incredible gifts to A Woman’s Place and to me personally. These are the remarks I delivered at her funeral on Tuesday. I love and will miss her dearly.

Good evening everyone. My name is Ifeoma Aduba, and standing with me are the Thursday Night Ladies. Toshi was one of the original Thursday Night Ladies. I know it is selfish to say, but I want her to be here and I can admit that I’m more than a little upset that she isn’t. I can also say – and I believe I speak for the rest of the Thursday Night Ladies when I say this – we are learning how to live with the one that we lost.

The Thursday Night Ladies are the bravest women I know. We gather every week and write our way to a flourishing life. For the 90 minutes that we spend together each week and during the moments in between, we encourage and support one another, we challenge each other to dig deep and be honest. We share our most authentic selves and, therefore, have gotten to know one another in a most raw and beautiful way. Toshi was part of the foundation of the Thursday Night Ladies. And what we know about our group now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that we are a family that is deeply in love with each other. Flaws and all, we unconditionally love each other – and we very much love Toshi.

I appreciate your patience tonight. Lately, every time I try to share how I feel, it comes out as a letter to Toshi. I sense she is trying to remind me to be honest with people in my relationships and to tell them things directly. In any case, thank you for letting us share.

Dear Toshi –

Here I am, writing another letter to you. I promise this one will be much nicer. I’m in a slightly better place now. Maybe this is the acceptance stage with which I’ve been struggling. In any case, there’s been less spur-of-the-moment crying and anger and much more appreciation for the gifts that you brought to me.

Here’s the thing about that Saturday night. When you stood and spoke in front of that room of 250 people, you were brilliant. The room held its breath that night, knowing that they were in the presence of incredible strength and power. It’s like that anticipation-filled moment when someone is about to give you a gift and you know it’s going to be the most wonderful gift you’ll ever receive so you pause for a moment in awe. That’s what the room felt like. I was in awe. I felt unworthy of what I was witnessing, yet thrilled to be there.

The thing about that Saturday night is that I watched your rebirth. As you all stood there, I knew I was witness to the birth of great and powerful women who would take on the world and make it better. I knew I was witness to pure joy and overcoming – the kind that some people only dream about. You were achieving it.

So, I’m sure you can understand my disappointment and upset. You’ve giggled and laughed at my Type-A personality. I’m sure you have been up there laughing as I agonize over what I could have done differently to stop this from happening. I told the group – I told you – I felt that I had failed you by not having a plan. But I know it wasn’t in my hands. I am a woman of faith and I know that I am not all-powerful. I know I can’t control everything.

The truth is my struggle is not because I didn’t have a plan in place to prevent this from happening to you. The truth is my struggle is because I did have a plan. I was crystal clear in my mind. As I watched you shine in front of everyone in the room, as I overflowed with pride and love for you, I could see the greatness that was yet to come. I could taste the victories that you would have as you stepped into the Toshi you had become and shared her with the world. I could feel the world shift to a better place because of you. With every sense in my being, I knew I was witnessing true glory and I could not wait to stand by your side in your next steps. All of the Thursday Night Ladies – you included – know me well enough to know that I started crafting a plan to create platforms for you to shine everywhere I could. I wanted the world to see you and I was planning how to make that happen.

I wanted you to have more time. Carla has told me that maybe you had the time that you needed to do what you were supposed to do. (And yes, Carla said it much more poetically than I just did.) In that room that night, when you shared your journey and story, when I witnessed your rebirth, you touched someone. You were here to make lives better, the world better, and in that room that night, you did it, so now we have to let you go.

I know for a fact that Carla is right. I know for a fact that you touched someone. People told me that night how much you touched them. As I’ve shared the news of what happened to you that night, I’ve read in emails how much you touched people. I’ve seen it on their faces – beyond the shock and the sadness – I’ve seen how much you touched them. As I look into the faces of our Thursday Night Ladies and desperately long to ease their pain and make it all better for them (because we all know that’s what I think I should be able to do) I know that you touched them.

Most of all, I know that you touched someone that night, because you touched me. Because of you, I am a better person. Because of you I am stronger, more sensitive, more aware. Because of you, I am better equipped and able to do my work and to answer my calling on this earth. Because of you, I am more willing to lean into difficult spaces and face personal challenges. Because of you, I am more honest and more authentic. Because of you, I was also reborn that night. And I promise to respect and honor and cherish the gift that you gave.

So Miss Toshi, with the beautiful smile, unique laugh, and most generous spirit – thank you. Thank you for sharing your journey with me. On behalf of all of us Thursday Night Ladies, thank you for sharing your journey with us. Thank you for your support along our own journeys. Thank you for the quiet kindnesses that you showed me. And now that you are gone and we are all talking about you, thank you for the quiet kindnesses that you showed each of us. Thank you for making us laugh and making us cry and helping us to remember that it is good for us to feel sadness so that we are able to feel and recognize joy. Thank you, in advance, for moving to another place but never abandoning us. Thank you for being our guardian angel and for continuing to watch over us and hold us accountable for doing the great work in the world that you started. We will continue to dig deep, and valiantly face challenges, and be honest in our words. We will make you ever so proud and continue to share your story, as we did tonight, and be certain to touch as many people as we can so that this world flourishes as you did and becomes worthy of your gifts.

WE LOVE YOU TOSHI!

Ifeoma U. Aduba
Executive Director

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