Yesterday I attended the funeral of a dear friend. She was the first one to “like” a blog post or leave a comment on my “latest and greatest” idea, no matter how wacky or weird it was.
If we’re lucky, we all have at least one person like my friend Linda who makes us believe in our own brilliance by reflecting it back to us.
Ours wasn’t a likely friendship but one that developed by working together. We didn’t work together for hours on end but in the odd hours when everyone else was asleep or had gone for the day or the week.
You see, Linda was the caretaker of our building. She was the invisible hand that kept the floors and windows clean and everything in operating condition. She would usually come in around 4 in the morning and spend a couple hours at our building before heading to her full-time job to put in another 8-9 for the day.
In her “free” time she made quilts and took in sewing projects and did all kinds of odd jobs for others.
She was a worker bee.
About a year ago Linda got bone cancer and embarked on the only route she deemed acceptable – the grueling road to recovery. She was an extremely private person so at first she simply withdrew. I’m sure she thought she could handle it without bothering anyone else and be back to work in no time.
But that was not the case. She had a long battle ahead of her and she was forced to fight it full time.
Once as I was driving her to the hospital I remember thinking, “This is really happening to us. We are no longer immune to cancer. It’s no longer something other people deal with.”
I got a glimpse into the impact a diagnosis of a debilitating disease has on a person. She, of course, was not going to let it get the best of her. In fact, like many people who have had cancer, it seemed to bring out the best in her.
Despite her declining physical condition, emotionally and spiritually she seemed to simultaneously harden and soften. Harden to take on the fear and uncertainty and soften to allow others to help. This brought about a kind of acceptance and letting go that comes with finally understanding what truly matters.
During the service, the priest admitted that he didn’t know Linda. I thought about how lucky I was that I did. As he fumbled his way through a reference to some Twilight Zone episode meant to comfort her family and friends, I consoled myself with what I did know and love about her.
While he surmised she loved being an aunt, he had no idea how much she loved her “kids” Rick and Rachael, the cats who shared her life. He made no mention of how mechanically minded she was or how, despite her fragile physical form, she was in the midst of a full DYI home renovation that had her excited about her future again. He failed to mention her lucky streak at the casinos or her love for Manny’s pizza.
He had studied her obituary but knew nothing of her life. He hadn’t had the opportunity the rest of us did.
As the priest offered the congregation communion, I imagined Linda finally communing with Michael Jackson, whom she admired more than any other performer. She told me once she’d love to have his music played during her funeral service but didn’t think it would go over very well.
So I came home and honored my friend the best way I knew how. “Alexa,” I commanded my AI device from Amazon, “please play ‘Man in the Mirror’ by Michael Jackson.”
Let me just say Alexa has ever understood or responded to any of my requests before. I believe she’s in cahoots with Siri who has the same problem. But today she responded, “Okay, Penny. Playing Man in the Mirror – the Immortals edition.”
Then I moon-walked around my kitchen, celebrating the life of my friend.