Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Last weekend's memorial service

Now that I'm much better-rested I want to talk about the memorial service for my friend L this past weekend.

First, though, I want to say that I looooved riding the train! There was plenty of room between the rows - so much that my feet didn't reach the footrest on the row in front - and there was a kneerest/footrest thing that could be brought up to support my legs. I also loved the way it felt once the train got up to speed; it felt like I was flying through the air. I loved it. It was so relaxing and soothing, and a fantastic way to travel.

At the service, one thing that struck me was that my friend L's husband G and his mother F seemed to know who I and the other mets girls were - when I said my name, their eyes went wide in recognition. I expected them to know the people who had visited L, but I was touched when the rest of us were recognized as well.

Much of the memorial service was planned by L, apparently. It was amazing and very touching and I felt honoured to be there witnessing it. It was sort of casual, outdoors in the barn-thing and around some picnic tables. This was nice, because it was fun and it didn't feel all that somber; it felt like a real celebration or send-off.  There were books of photographs and scrapbooks showing L's life (which seemed to really start when she met G), so that people could see all of her different sides and her whole life.

L decided who she wanted to speak at the service, I have a sneaking suspicion that she planned the order and possibly each person's general topic so as to have the best flow and impact... but I don't know that part for certain. Each person or group that spoke about L touched on a different facet of her life: her organizational skills, her creativity and artistic abilities, her inner grace, her snarkiness, her honesty, her love for G, and more. In this way, I felt like we were getting to know the whole person that was L, not just the parts I already knew. I learned so much about L when I was there... I knew her before I went but I came away knowing so much more about her.

One thing I noticed is that when people spoke of L, it wasn't all in this sad way - it was more like, "I knew this awesome woman and I want to tell you all about who she was so that you can know and love her like I did." Some stories were funny and others were touching ... and everyone loved her. Their love shone through everything they said and it was clear that she had changed people's lives for the better just by their virtue of having known her.

G said, during the celebration, that he did what he did for L because he couldn't imagine doing anything else for her; that he loved her and would do anything he could for her. G really did do so much for L as she declined... he bought her a laptop so that she could communicate with people; he slept in the room with her on an air mattress to help her in the night; he carried her wherever she needed to go.... and more.

F told a couple of us that as L was sliding into her final coma and was increasingly non-responsive the day before she died, her eyes would still open when G said something to her. She also said that G held L as she died.... and every time I think about that, I start to cry. The thought that he loved her so much and was able to be there as she died - at one of the most profound moments of a person's life - just makes me so sad and so oddly happy, because it was was like they were able to complete their relationship.

F had also said that it was as though G and L really were one person, that they had made each other the kind, caring, compassionate, beautiful people they are/were... and thinking about it, it's so true. When I talked to G it "felt" like talking to L; they had the same energy, if that makes sense. I am so glad that they found each other because it's clear that they had the kind of love and relationship that doesn't come around all that often.

L also chose the song that marked the end of the memorial: "Let it Be" by the Beatles.... a song that brought tears to everyone's eyes. I felt like she chose it as a way of saying "let me go. I lived and we've talked about my life, but it's time to let me go and move on. Let me live through you now, in your heart and in your thoughts." I cried harder during this song than any other time before because it did feel so much like a goodbye - and I don't like goodbyes.

I want to add that even though it was definitely a celebration of L's life, I cried throughout because it was a celebration of a beautiful, meaningful life that is gone too soon... and I miss her. As I got to know her even more through each person or group who spoke, I loved and missed her more and so I cried more. Mine were not the only tears, of course, but crying is cathartic for me... and the celebration/service/memorial was definitely the right place to have shed those tears.

I'm so very glad that I went. I felt like I was able to really grieve for L and to be with other people who shared my grief for her... and I was able to grieve with those people for the others we've lost. I'm grateful that my inner voice encouraged me to go and that I did go, even though I missed the train on Thursday. It was definitely the right thing for me to do. I hope that my presence there, as well as my descriptions of the service afterward for those who couldn't be there, provided others with as much comfort as I received.

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