A Love Story
I attended a funeral yesterday. It was for a young friend’s mother
When I got there, there were books on the table that she had self-published at the beginning of her horrifically difficult battle with cancer. The book was a compilation of quotes with a dedication to her daughters so that they could “hear her when they no longer could because, sometimes her advice seemed to fall on deaf ears”.
The book gave me something to do as I sat waiting for the service to begin. Tears rolled down my face as I read one prolific quote after the other.
The service was officiated only by family. This made it one of the most beautiful services I have ever attended. It began with her ex-husband. I knew that they had maintained a friendship throughout their lifetime. But what I would hear would take my breath away. He told a love story of divorce. He was the one who took her to ever doctor’s appointment, every chemo treatment, and every single emergency room visit-which were numerous in her last year. As he spoke to the room, he shared how at each one of the visits, she would thank him and he would shake his head and tell her they were “almost even” (in reference to what she had given to him, in friendship, support and understanding through out their relationship). And on the eve of her death, she weakly asked to sit up, she put one hand on his shoulder, and when she had proven too weak to do it herself, he helped her place the other on his opposite shoulder. She leaned her head on his chest and said, “ We are even now.”
This story, made more beautiful by his raw emotions, has reverberated in my head for the past eighteen hours over and again. Each time, it brings me to tears. The beauty of love, even after it transitioned through divorce and all of its nuanced insanity, was able to allow this couple to demonstrate to one another, to their daughters, and to all who bore witness what it means to say “til death do us part.”
Her mother, her brother, and her daughters spoke. They told of her unyielding goodness. Of unending forgiveness. Of unmatched love and support.
Next came three of her closest friends. Friendships that started back in the early seventies. One she met at thirteen, another in high school, another was her college roommate. These women did not live here in Florida and yet, through their stories, I heard the friendship transcended the decades and distance. Each one, with personalities that could not have been more distinct if crafted for a movie, told of her effortless giving and relentless pursuit of their happiness.
She loved to entertain and to cook. She remembered her friend’s issues and sent advice, books, and links leading to solutions. She collected quotes. She collected stories. She collected memories. She collected people. She wanted to help everyone, especially those in need. She worked hard. She loved harder. Each person’s intimate, yet familiar, stories wove together the tapestry of her life.
She was the maker of videos, and thus, one of her friend’s husbands began collecting pictures when her end was nearing so he could pay tribute to his friend. The montage began and I was grateful for the dark to cover my tears as I watched the screen.
I sat watching the pictures of her childhood, her wedding, her life with her children, and her life with her friends. One heart wrenching song after the other played as the snapshots of her life faded in and out. And, through eyes blurred with tears, the pictures could have been any of mine. The slideshow could have been any of our lives, really.
I was reminded at a funeral what makes life worth living.
It is laughter. It is tears. It is our shared stories. It is the moments in our normal day-to-day life. It is each one of our idiosyncrasies that will come through again and again when our story is told. It is about understanding. It is about forgiveness. It is about our personal evolution through time. It is about love in all its shapes and sizes.
The montage finished, the lights came back on, tears were dried for the moment. Today, my friend will begin her new chapter. I am sure now loving hurts deeply for her right now. But the love story and legacy her parents created has helped her begin a collage seeped in devotion and has laid a foundation for a life worth living.