A Celebration of Life

 

I couldn't wait to get home to write about the incredible memorial service for my friend Marlene. We sat in the historic all white church celebrating her life, just exactly as she planned and I wanted to recall each moment.  During the service, it felt like everything was getting embedded in my mind and heart, however, as I sat down to write, I froze.  I suddenly couldn't remember anything specific. It was like my memory became a blur of emotion and feeling, with only an overall image of the scene without anything tangible.  So maybe I needed a day to recover, hoping that  perhaps the program would spark a synapsis in my brain, to redraw the event.  It started with a neighbor’s acoustic guitar playing, As Tears Go By,  no one possibly knowing how much that song made me cry at summer camp so many years ago. But now, there was almost nothing.  I was stuck in the sea of sterile white, unable to connect perhaps out of my defenses due to the too muchness of the year.  From there came poems and heartfelt eulogies from friends and a reverend who was both clergy and friend, all woven between songs carefully hand picked by Marlene, not “sappy” (her word), but for sure sad.  From Trouble Will Soon Be Over, by Sinead O'Conner to Heavenly Day, belted live by a very talented friend I did not know.  Still I sat engulfed by the heat, suffocating by the emptiness in my body.  Until came the crescendo, what everything was leading up to... Marlene’s manifesto.  I couldn’t begin to paraphrase the entire thing, but even the premise was filled with Marlene’s tone, taken from JK Rowlings Harvard commencement speech titled, The Fringe Benefits of Failure.  She called hers the Fringe Benefits of Cancer, written at a time when she could not even read.  It made us laugh, and it definitely made us cry.  The icey cold surroundings of suffering melted into tears, both fulfilling and sad.  She spoke of each of us, especially her family, but including those of her many friends she considered family; the merry maids, the Grace girls, and of course her Muppet Wives. She spoke of the advantage of being able to slow down, take her time, and mostly to stop to smell those metaphoric roses.  She was allowing herself permission to reflect on her life and she so poetically and deeply gave her family a lifetime of praise and love, enough to sustain even when her absence has settled and time passes.  And then when we all were surrounded by her voice, the music played. I don’t know if I ever heard that song before, but the lyrics, Keep Me In Your Heart, by Warren Zevon, was heart wrenchingly beautiful and the tears that had been building with a slow drip rushed out from deep inside.  Squeezed between another muppet wife and muppet friend, I was grateful for their hands of comfort and mine went out to them as well.  As we began to compose ourselves, the final song...Dance in Graveyard, by Delta Rae.  Peter had told us all it was coming, joking that Marlene envisioned everyone standing and dancing.  He had said he replied to her, not a chance of that happening in our state. I looked at Amy, Marlene’s best friend from childhood and she swayed to the rhythm.  It could have gone both ways, from a subtle sway to an upright frenzy, but we all sat kind of frozen, kind of moving.  I think it was an internal dance, one that comes from within.  I looked at her kids and her husband and knew that they were drained and content with a day of loss, of love, of closure, and of honor. Finally, as we filled the tent with even more friends and family a drizzle of rain trickled down from what had started as a sunny day. And then, at the very end, I don’t know who heard it but it was a loud rumble, either from thunder or a train.  Was it a sign or just a clap to jolt us back to reality...to move us on once again in the wake of cancer.   

 Under the Clouds (of Cancer)

Under the Clouds (of Cancer)