Yesterday I spoke at my friend’s funeral. I did the best I could, but what I learned was writing for eyes is different than writing for ears. I mean, I knew this was true already but nothing is a better teacher than experience. Here’s what I wrote.
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We neglect our relationship with death until we have no choice and then it’s awkward, like a blind date gone wrong. We fumble with how to embrace something so painful and final. And because of that, the temptation is to make sense of it all, to find explanation and meaning in the raw deal Dee got. I think that is wasted time. Death is part of life. That’s it. That’s all the meaning there is, if we are brave enough to admit it.
We are all here because Dee found a way into our lives. Some of you have had the privilege to know her a lifetime, and some of us only a handful of years. Regardless, we found whatever time we shared with her meaningful. It’s why saying goodbye is hard.
And this is the hardest of goodbyes.
That’s why we are here. Because this kind of goodbye is best shared with company.
Bikes are how Dee found a way into my life, and I know that’s how a lot of you met Dee too. She was a teammate of mine for Mad Cat Bikes. And man, being on that team was, and still is, a serious love-fest. It’s no wonder that Dee was a part of it. Like the rest of us, she shared the best parts of her heart to make the team something uniquely special. Having to say goodbye to her feels like losing a limb.
Dee had an inappropriate sense of humor that I find endearing, so it is no wonder we became friends. She reminded me of my mother in many ways, strong and independent on the surface, but with a sensitive and vulnerable side less easily seen. I’ll miss our candid talks about life and love and the challenges of navigating through all of it.
I didn’t have the courage to actually say the word “goodbye” to her when I last saw her, just days before she passed. We talked, and I tried to find ways to be funny as I rubbed her back, feeling her ribs through her thin skin. Before I left, I did tell Dee that I loved her. And that’s the best thing I could say for both of us.
It’s these kind of goodbyes that make me reflect on what is really important to me. It’s these kind of goodbyes that make me realize that I take a great many things for granted, that my woes are mostly petty things. It’s these kind of goodbyes that haunt me with regret of the things I did and didn’t say. It’s these kind of goodbyes that grab and shake me at my core.
I’m glad to be here to share that with you.
There’s a scene from the movie Rabbit Hole that I adore and I’d like to share in closing. The movie is about loss and grief and how the living struggle to deal with it. In the scene, the main character, Becca, asks her mother a question.
BECCA: Does it ever go away?
BECCA: This feeling.
NAT: No. I don’t think it does. Not for me, it hasn’t. And that’s goin’ on 11 years.
It changes, though.
NAT: I don’t know. The weight of it, I guess. At some point it becomes bearable. It turns into something you can crawl out from under, and carry around — like a brick in your pocket. And you forget it every once in a while, but then you reach in for whatever reason and there it is: “Oh, right. That.” Which can be awful. But not all the time. Sometimes it’s kinda … not that you like it exactly, but it’s what you have instead of your son, so you don’t wanna let go of it either. So you carry it around. And it doesn’t go away, which is …
NAT: Fine … actually.