This morning was my cousin Linda’s funeral. Funerals are hard for me. I don’t like grieving in groups or in public, and definitely not both at the same time. I also get uncomfortable with the religious bent. But this is one of those things we do because we should, and perhaps need to. To say good-bye. To honor a life ending. To support the survivors.
Although I knew my cousin all my life, we were not close, and we did not know each other well. We’d see each other at Christmas time at my Mom’s house, and she’d come with her family when we’d host the rare family gatherings here. I liked her, but she was always very shy (around me, at least) and rarely said much.
Then something changed.
About six months ago, she friended me on Facebook and sent me a message, letting me know she had something she wanted to send me and Jeffrey. I gladly accepted her request and sent her my address. It was a beautiful homemade Christmas card and two handmade miniature treasure trunks, decorated in glitter with our names and full of little treasures, charms, and keepsakes. It was incredibly touching. I don’t know what inspired her to suddenly reach out, but I’m so glad she did. In the following months, we messaged each other regularly, and she filled me in on her life: her love of crafting and all things Halloween, especially skeletons. She told me about her activities, trips, and things she was looking forward to doing, and all of her supportive letters and care packages she sent to those in the military, far away from home and family. Every message was filled with excitement, and every message always ended with the sweetest sentiments: “I hope you have a great day.” “So glad to hear from you.” “Thank you for messaging with me.” They were happy, warm fuzzy messages, and I immediately both regretted that we had not started this friendship journey sooner, while at the same time, being thrilled she had taken the first step and reached out. Better late than never.
And then tragedy struck, and we lost my cousin and new friend, suddenly and unexpectedly. But I didn’t stop getting to know her. Through the words of her friends and family at this morning’s service, I learned Linda was so much more than I ever knew. Her compassion and care knew no bounds, and she spent her life taking care of so many people, family, friends, and strangers alike. She was so loved and cherished by those who’s lives she touched, and it was clear the world will be a less bright in her absence.
I didn’t feel right speaking about her at the service. I knew her so little, and for such a short time, compared to all these other people that loved and knew her for so long, and yet, I knew this incredible person they described was the exact person I was getting to know. In just a few weeks and a few words, she made me feel loved and appreciated. She made me feel like family. And her friendship made me happy. I don’t have a right to miss her this much, but I do.
Tonight, while making dinner, I felt the sudden need to listen to music: happy music. I put on a favorite play list and danced about the kitchen as I prepared dinner. And suddenly, I saw Linda in my mind, smiling and shining so brightly, and I recalled these lyrics from a song by Lee Ann Womack:
“And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…..I hope you dance…I hope you dance…”
Thank you, Linda. For reaching out. For bringing me into your life. For showing me such a beautiful wonderful side of you I never knew. I know our new friendship was short, but it was no less meaningful, and I’ll always be grateful you asked me to dance.
You will be missed.