It’s been two weeks since we’d heard the news, all of us one collective, learning why our friend hadn’t made it to work. She didn’t wake up. No breath in her lungs. No light in her eyes. She was gone. And, we’ve been dealing with the void she left behind.
I walked into her office yesterday. On the way, each step caused my heart and my stomach to inch closer together. Her absence is as big as her presence. And, it’s been hard for me to deal. She was my friend. It’s the only truth I know to come back to.
At her funeral, over and over and over again I was washed with her authenticity, her bravery, her love for people, her faith, her joy. She struggled but she took joy in armfuls, whether it came in the form of a taco or a friend, she loved it all. She was herself. And, she wanted everyone to be themselves. One powerful desire that changed us all.
So, here I am, on the couch, missing my friend and facing her real-ness. I hold back. So much. Too often. It’s embarrassing. I question everything I do. Is it right? What will happen if I do, say, try…this thing? What about this? Should I? I don’t know…
It’s the things that I’ve held back that I regret the most.
Like, on the last day that I saw her, she came down to say that she loved me. She was telling everybody that she loved them. And, I stayed in my seat. I held back. I thought about hugging her, but I didn’t. I’m not sure why. I just sat there. I stayed. I stayed.
How do we stay awake? Woke? Whatever. Does death always have to be the catalyst that shakes us up, and hopefully out of our stupor? I hope not. I don’t want to fall asleep again. Not ever. But, I’m not sure if I can sustain it.
Lord, teach me to sustain it…
I’m going to start with something that I’ve always wanted to say.
I am not afraid of death. My own, at least. The DMV knows that they can have my body parts. It’s all signed away. This body, this vessel, this leaky (oh my word, it so leaks) jar will one day leak it’s last. And, I’m okay with that. The world makes me tired. I love it. So much. But, it does wear me out. I’m okay with saying goodbye.
You need to know this about me.
You also need to know that I am terribly awkward around death. Perhaps the best thing I can offer is my silence, because otherwise, I just make odd jokes – the slightly uncomfortable kind that a teenager makes. It’s just best not to speak. Snarky does not suit me.
And, funeral homes. Oh my word. Can we just not? With the organ music and the pink shaded lighting and the human being that we know and loved not looking like themselves? Dear Lord Jesus, come save us. It’s just wrong. And, it makes me sick. And, I read “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” so don’t think I don’t know what’s going on behind those 80’s fashioned curtains.
So, here’s what I want to say. Someday, it will be my turn. Not now. I don’t have plans like that. That’s not my deal. But, when it’s my turn, I just have a few simple requests.
Don’t send plants. Flowers are okay. Not plants. Have you taken care of a fern? Or, a calla lily? I know, right? They are so hard to keep alive. Don’t give them to my family. They’ll have enough to worry about. Skip the plants.
Make a donation in my name.
Start a fund.
Run a race.
Finish a dream.
Eat a pizza.
Have a party.
Do something that will lift your heart out from where you are. Make it worth it.
Make it worth it.
Tell some stories. Any kind of story will do. Especially the embarrassing kind. I can’t stop you so feel free to take full advantage. Laugh. Please laugh at my funeral. Tears (I HOPE) will be there, but try to laugh as much as possible. It will help.
Wear something colorful. Please. No black. Unless, you are Audrey Hepburn. Otherwise, live it up. Or, just wear your favorite jeans. Wear what you love and what gives you life. Don’t buy a dress on my account, unless it’s been a long time and you just need to. That makes total sense. Make it fun. Again, make it worth it.
Be yourself. That’s the most I can ask from you. Just bring your beautiful, wonderful, bestest selves to the present. This is what my friend asked of me and I this is what I’m asking of you.
And, let’s not wait till one of us dies.
Let’s start now.
Let’s breathe and sing, laugh, play, hope, risk, love, reach out, try, bend, forgive, stand, fall, and fly. I have desires in this beating heart and I know you do too.
Let’s try. Just try.
And, then, let’s finish what we started.
I have a lyric from a song on a post-it at my desk. I keep it there to remember…
Don’t fall asleep
“Don’t let your spirit die before your body does…”
(Photo Credit: Bess Hamiti from Pexels)