Hello! My name is Sarah Hempel Irani. I have lived an extraordinary life.
I grew up in Northern Japan. Then when I was 12, my family moved to a small town in rural Michigan where I graduated from high school at the then brand new Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center. I was the school mascot and dressed as a big fluffy eagle at football games. On account of a wicked bout with mono my senior year, I only went to school part time. Since I had time during the day, I went to figure drawing classes at the local college and taught myself <html> and built my first website in 1995.
I went to college to study biology and ended up learning Latin and Classical Mythology instead. What’s more: I was introduced to sculpture, which completely changed the trajectory of my life. A desire to be like my hero, Michelangelo, I told everyone that I was going to make a giant marble sculpture by the time I was 25!
After college, I moved to Maryland and worked as a sculptor’s apprentice in Jay Hall Carpenter’s studio, former artist-in-residence at the Washington National Cathedral. My first year away from home, I joined an Irish Dancing Troupe because how else would you make friends in a large city?
When I was 25, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church commissioned me to do not one, but two larger-than-life-size marble sculptures. I would spend the next five years working on the project. I ended up living in a garage with two white cats that looked remarkably like plaster sculptures.
I went to graduate school to study Medieval and Renaissance studies while at the same time working as the coordinator of visual resources at the college. Basically, I was the slide librarian for the art historians and archaeologists on campus.
In 2004, a blind date orchestrated by a Lutheran pastor would alter the course of my life in a profound way. I met the love of my life and we were married the following year. I moved out of the garage and finally had a home with a real shower in it.
We bought a charming old home in a city I loved. The economy crashed, we had to move. We ended up in Grove City, Pennsylvania in a tiny yellow cottage. In 2009, we adopted our daughter from India. I helped start an arts non-profit. We did some extraordinary work in our little town.
Back in Maryland, I was overjoyed to be in my favorite town in America. We were settling into our new little brick house and getting our new life in order when everything changed.
I had cancer.
My mother stayed with us during treatment and every day she’d step outside and check the mail. Every day there was a letter, a package, a delivery, or a visitor. For months, I was showered with love. I was unable, at the time, to do anything for anyone in return. It was complete, lavish, unselfish love poured out upon me by family, friends, and relative strangers.
In this love, I believe that I was able to touch God, for in God we find unconditional love and there is no greater healing force in the world than unconditional love.
And, the day before my 40th birthday I got the call that my CT scan came back clear and I was NED (No Evidence of Disease) and I was instructed to go and live my life, but expect to be tired. Really tired.
Immediately, I booked airfare to Paris. Then, I had to figure out how to live with purpose and intention. I had this body that had both betrayed me and saved me.