A Gentleman…

If you are new to this blog of the upcoming book Viking Funeral, celebrating the life of Dave Linane with booze, words, and fire, welcome.  The timeline above shows you where we are in the book. While each chapter can stand on its own if you wish to read from the beginning, click here.  More info is available, About Dave or the FAQ section explains who the book is about and the arc of the storyline. If you found me through a grief group, this page of my perspective of why we are all here in this place right now may be helpful. XO M

***

I so longed for a friend my age. I was so much younger than my siblings that the things we wanted to play or watch on T.V. were vastly different, I didn’t feel left out per se, they either were off elsewhere, or I didn’t want to do what they wanted to do so I was on my own most of the time. I remember being so excited when my first best friend forever (FBFF), Susie’s family moved in across the street when we were both about three. I was overjoyed! We played every day, attended Kindergarten together, we adored each other.

The summer before first grade or sometime that year, her family moved away. Our family returned to being the only one with children on our block. I was beyond sad when they moved. No more Barbies or running through the sprinklers on a hot day as exciting as that was getting uncomfortably itchy every time from the grass clippings that stuck to our legs. No more five-year-old Barbie drama scenarios, which were way more sophisticated than our lives at the age of five. We essentially parodied storylines directed by Susie from day time soaps she had seen on T.V. No more riding big wheels, but mostly no more Barbies damn it. We were really into Barbies. We are still connected 50 years later, as FBFFs, and I adore her literally forever and back, but when you are a little kid, you don’t have a lot of planning skills to figure out how to remain connected to people. She lived across town but may as well have lived on the surface of the moon for all I knew, until years later, when I, or we, of course, learned how to utilize a phone independently and make arrangements to see each other. It felt like the end of the world when they drove away that day, and before I ever heard the word depression, I had it for a long time. I so longed for a friend before she arrived and then again when she left a hole in my life and little elementary school age heart.

Later that year, Kelly moved in one block west of us on the corner of 25th and D Street at what her family simply called 407 (their address). Her mom approached me on the sidewalk on a windy, Santa Ana windy day, asking for my number to contact my mom to make a playdate. She wrote it down a brown paper grocery shopping bag. It struck me so funny at the time, and both Kelly and I still laugh about it when it comes up. They had just moved, I love how it was so important to her mom to help her kids get settled, way more so than having paper, she ran out to get my number when she saw me out in their new neighborhood. I think it is the sweetest motherly thing. I was so happy to hear a girl about my age was moving in. I had already become friends with her before we met. I was so happy, a new friend!

I should clarify, we never played with Barbies. Kelly was a year older and had lots of friends from the many facets of her life, which included the local public school, dance classes, performing in local musicals, and her former neighborhood. She was all about having adventures out in the world, riding bikes, exploring the creepy cemetery a half-block away, telling scary stories in the creepy cemetery, chasing their dog Missy, who always bolted for the same creepy cemetery and bringing her back home. Holding our breath at the bottom of their swimming pool, or double-bouncing off the diving board, dancing to records, hair styling. Yes, Kelly cut my hair more than once back when she thought she wanted to be a hairstylist. Kelly just was not into playing with Barbies. I had learned how to play with them on my own long before anyway, so that was fine, and man did I love her swimming pool!

***

Two years later, Shelly moved to our neighborhood halfway in between our house and Kelly’s. Shelly and Kelly were a year older than me. They played one year older girl stuff on their own some of the time. But the three of us were Charlie’s Angels. We had fantasy adventures that included, of course, crime-solving if that wasn’t already obvious, bike riding, dancing to Heaven on the Seventh Floor on a handmade pool table at Shelly’s, skating, running, swimming (Kelly and Shelly BOTH had huge pools)! We had slumber parties and explored the roof of every house in our neighborhood as a place to hide during hide-and-seek or tag or, as part of our crime-solving surveillance operations. I am pretty sure we caused more than one leaky roof, including Shelly’s (apologies to her mom Sheryl) since all the homes in our neighborhood were vintage Spanish style homes with Terra Cotta tile roofs. It never occurred to us that people may not want us on their roofs; no one ever complained or even came outside to see what in the hell was going on on their roof so, and they were home as far as we knew. We followed the no harm, no foul rule.

Like Kelly had one-on-one time with Shelly, so did I. She had a wildly shining personality; She was a daredevil, very cute, a competitive speed (water) skier. She loved loud music and dancing, and when we were older, she loved driving very fast. She was one to love the sun and water, by the pool, at the lake, or beach. She had friends beyond our neighborhood, as did Kelly and me, but she was the sort of friend who made you feel like her very best friend in the entire world when you were with her because she was that ALL in with you in-the-moment. She looked you intently in the eyes when you spoke to her, her gaze shifting from one eye to your other eye and she would comment, “that eye has more gray in it than the other,” and or was at the ready for whatever action was to be had, “Let’s go!” and we went wherever it was, fast. I honestly had a hard time keeping up with her fiery energy at times.

Kelly ended up attending the Catholic elementary-middle school I and everyone else in our family attended in our neighborhood at some point, maybe fourth grade, but a year ahead of me, then we both went to the Catholic High School, like Barbara, Aquinas, about a 20-minute drive away. Shelly attended the local Christian schools through high school.

***

Shelly and I both attended San Bernardino Valley College after graduating but a year different. Our paths were very separate, I am not sure either of us had a declared major, but we had one class in common, a jazz dance class that was fun and counted toward P.E. credit. I was one to follow the teacher, the steps outlined for me. Shelly was a great dancer and followed her own ideas and made her own moves. She had made friends with everybody, including the somewhat badass brake dancers on campus, and could throw down with any of them in a dance-off. She was a cheerleader, made new friends on the squad, and loved cheering on the team. She was a powerhouse of energy and simply a standout.

In her roughly mid-20s, She developed a lingering cold. She could not shake it and felt extremely tired all the time, almost like she had mono. She was the most energetic person I have ever known; I never once heard her comment about being or acting tired. Tired was just not normal for her; it really seemed like mono.

It turned out that she had Acute Leukemia. The huge shift in her health was so dramatic, how could she be so very ill almost overnight? It was unreal. She was so ill that she had to be hospitalized the day her diagnosis was confirmed and began treatment right away. The news was shocking and devastating to her life’s community of people.

She had JUST met the man she would ultimately marry. She had had one blind date with him before learning of her diagnosis. They were very quickly engaged, and she was making wedding plans from her hospital bed in the middle of one of her many stays during her treatments. Their mutual friend had been encouraging them to meet for that blind-date for a very long time. Each felt the same way, and could not believe that the other existed and was as great as described by their friend in common, because “if he or she WERE ACTUALLY that great, why does he or she need to be set up on a blind date?” They both knew soon after the date had started that this was it. They both were well suited for each other. It was one magical thing in the middle of a terrible storm.

I visited her during one of her stays in the hospital. I, apparently, like everyone else, noticed what appeared to be an empty frame next to her bed and, right after greeting her, nodded at it with a questioning look at the frame among a display of balloons and stuffed cute things. The photo of the guy in it looked like the marketing material that comes in a new frame from the store; he was posed with his jacket loosely thrown over his shoulder, you know the standard guy model pose, and was very handsome. It looked so out of place among the rest of the items that felt so personally, her. She laughed and told me all the nurses were asking her the same question, and she beamed announcing to them and me that it was her fiance! I was so happy for her. We laughed as she told me about him, about the heart-shaped diamond engagement ring falling on the floor of a yogurt shop as he accidentally half-tossed the ring at her in a nervous proposal over frozen yogurt. They didn’t want to waste any time because they had already heard about each other forever. Nothing about this visit conveyed anything of worry or fear about Leukemia to me—just joy about the future with her new beau.

Her experiences were educational, to say the least, and she made it funny; I could not believe how she made fun of Leukemia, but she did. In all honesty, what are you going to do? It was just her spirit, to be funny and have a bright outlook. She was always fashionable in her manner of dress, make-up, and hairstyling. After undergoing and completing her first full course of chemo treatments, as expected, she lost all of her hair, her lovely platinum blond hair. Chemo did not affect any of her style other than the not having her own hair aspect. She wore wigs, cute hats, and tried to put make-up or at least lipstick on every day. She had always been super strong and athletic but was without question a girly girl at her core, which called for cute clothes and lipstick at a minimum. Her hair surprised us all and grew back dark brown. She was excited to show me as she took off her baseball cap, forced me to rub her fuzzy head, and joked about being a baby chick. She grabbed my hand and forced it on her head and smiled hugely with painted on eyebrows raised as she did, conveying a can you believe this? vibe, and I nodded in agreement, “definitely feels like a baby chick.” Her late dad had been blonde, and her mom a raven-haired beauty. It turned out that her olive skin tone looked amazing as a blond and as a brunette.

None of us fully comprehended what losing all your hair means. She hadn’t thought about her pubes falling out, neither did I. She was the first person I had known to go through chemo who would have told me such a detail. I mean, I had older relatives who had gone through chemo but not anyone who would have ever talked to me about anything that went on under their clothes with or without hair. She mentioned it offhandedly as she put some lipstick on while I looked out her bedroom window at the shady green scene of her long wraparound front yard and the street below.

The way she made an o shape with her mouth and pulled her lips tightly over her teeth, caused her words to come out funny, “I could not beliebe ny hair down dere ( I continued looking out the window but saw her out of the corner of my eye motion down there toward her crotch) pell out too, had NOT esspected DAT.” She got my attention as this funny comment was autocorrected in my head; her distorted pronunciation AND what she said was so funny. I turned away from the window to look at her, she maintained her gaze at herself in the mirror, at how her lips were coming along. She quickly flashed a look at me and back at herself through her reflection. Causing a familiar glint of fire twinkle in her eyes, and we burst into laughter as she continued to hold her lipstick up at the ready to continue applying after we laughed for a long moment. I could not believe how my friend laughed in the face of Leukemia.

While she was in the hospital, word got out that she had to pay a ridiculous amount of money for each pint of blood she needed as part of her treatment. She had many friends, as I mentioned previously. She was kind to everyone, and such an amazing bundle of fun energy, everyone was naturally drawn to her. We found out that we could donate blood in her name that could help defray the cost of her transfusions. I forget now how many pints had to be donated for her to get one free pint, but we got everyone we could think of to donate. The football team at San Bernardino Valley College, our dance class. Friends from our neighborhood, from her work, from her former school, family. You name it, they donated.

I went to watch T.V. with Dave one night that week of our blood donation drive but found his room dark when I opened his door. It was very rare that he was asleep early, my mom caught me backing out of his room, closing his door, she knew I was going to ask if everything was ok? She shut down my inquiry, “He is tired from donating bone marrow for Shelly today; he has a headache and is–wiped out.” Besides blood, Shelly also needed a bone marrow donor, just one. Out of all the people who gave blood, only one person donated their marrow to see if they were a match. That one donor was Dave. He didn’t tell me or anyone; he just drove himself the twenty-something blocks down Arrowhead Avenue, in the actual street. Again, this was before wheelchair curb cutouts. It was four-and-a-half miles to the blood bank on a two to four-lane avenue with a suicide lane in the middle in sections through the grittiest part of the south end of a pretty gritty town. What was approximately a six-minute car ride took him more than an hour in his wheelchair with a blazing fast top speed of 6 Miles Per Hour.

I knew about the barbaric bone marrow donation and transplant techniques, with massive needles and painful recovery from family experience. Our mom’s brother needed a bone marrow transplant two decades prior. He was gravely ill with another type of blood cancer, Aplastic Anemia, and needed this same course of treatment. The discussion among the eight other siblings was the trepidation of how painful the potential donation recovery was going to be. It was described as being kicked by a horse. I was worried that Dave would somehow feel it and be in pain. Nowadays, determining a match is simply done by a mouth swab.

The next day he was his normal self, I asked him about it. He minimized his kind gesture, “Well, it’s not like I can feel anything,” and he gave me a look as if I should know better. “It was really no big deal.” I inquired how they took the marrow from him, I wondered if he was anesthetized, was he in his wheelchair… “How did that even happen? I mean, because…?” I made an exaggerated stabby motion to the side of my leg with an unpleasant grimace mocking the marrow harvest process as I envisioned it. He explained, “It was easy; they just laid my wheelchair back, helped turn me on my side right there on my chair, gave me a local and then put a VERY big needle in my femur to draw out a marrow sample. The hole in the bone will heal up in no time.” I shivered at the VERY BIG NEEDLE talk as I visualized what I had just stabby pantomimed in my question. “So, they took a core sample?” I pulled back on the pretend big needle I was using as I talked with my hands. “Basically, yes.” This is the ONE exceptional and rare occasion when it is a good thing to be paralyzed. He assured me that he didn’t feel any pain from any part of the process, that he was tired last night, but “I’m FINE.” He would never say, but he privately loved being able to help her, help people, help in general. He was, we all were so disappointed when the test results came back that he wasn’t a successful match.

There were no successful matches elsewhere for her, either. She continued her chemo and transfusion treatments without a donor. When she finally retained some of her strength, when she was somewhat back on her feet, ok, well, she could drive at least, I heard her vintage 60s custom painted pepto-pink Mustang hauling ass up Arrowhead Avenue, I or anyone who knew her or lived in our neighborhood could recognize the sound of that throaty well-tuned engine anywhere. Dave was outside on the corner like many other days, just enjoying the day. I heard her car motor idling and her stereo. I looked out the kitchen window to see if everything was ok. She had stopped in the middle of the street on her way home, saw Dave, jumped out of her car, leaving the door wide open, radio blaring. I couldn’t see her or Dave from our kitchen because we had tall hedges that bordered our porch that blocked the view of the corner itself. A moment later, I saw and heard her the music quiet as she shut her door, and floored it the rest of the way, like maybe 300 feet, to her driveway. That is just how she rolled. Fast.

I was a little worried and went outside to ask Dave what was up. He heard the door close behind me and turned around to reveal tears streaming down his face. He knew I would be worried and cut me off before I got wound up, and told me through his verklempt teary state that she had just stopped to thank him with a hug and kiss for donating his blood and marrow. She didn’t care that he wasn’t a match; she was just so appreciative of his kindness in donating for her. I had tears pouring down my face and hugged him as I wiped both of our tears away. We looked at each other wide-eyed, both took a breath with a ‘Whew!” He turned around to face the street, and I went back into the house.

***

Shelly had a huge magical formal white wedding (production) with all the girly girl frills you could imagine. Bridal showers, dress fittings, their house had dresses hanging all over their dining room. She had so many friends it was more like a cast party than a wedding party. She had bridesmaids and candle lighters and flower girls. It looked like a lovely ballet. We all felt the magic of being part of such a beautiful celebration of love and life for our beautiful friend with so much LIFE. She was alive! We were so joyful that our darling and sweet friend had survived to marry her beau, happily ever after. We were over the moon that she had found this lovely man who loved her dearly. It was magical in contrast to the previous year of hell and scary health issues.

Shelly and her husband moved to his house in Laguna Niguel, so we didn’t see each other for long periods. We talked on the phone here and there. She had good days and not so good days off and on for the next few years. I think the outlook was something like if she could make it five years in remission, then her future was pretty bright.

The Leukemia made her weak and tired, to begin with, but over time, seeing her being dragged to the threshold of death’s door by the chemo, transforming her from her healthy, beautifully curvy body to skin and bones was just awful to witness. One of the unexpected realities of undergoing chemotherapy was that it had destroyed the blood supply to her joints. She underwent chemo originally at 25 and had to have hip replacement surgery at 28.

Shelly and I were in Kelly’s wedding not long after her first hip replacement. I helped her get dressed that day. I had just given birth to my son, and she wanted to hear all about him. I gushed about my weeks old baby boy as we got ready. She asked me to help her get her nylons on because her balance and strength were weak. She showed me her scar, told me about her new hip and other joint replacements she was planning on having soon. I hated seeing her with a PICC line (the tube inserted in her chest as part of the early days of her chemo treatments), now it felt like she was being carved up from these unintended consequences of medicine, but her new hip felt better, and she was looking forward to swapping out all those prematurely worn-out joints for new stainless steel parts. She had pretty severe pain in her other ‘original’ hip and her shoulders. The combination made it difficult for her to wrangle a pair of nylons. I was happy to help her. We two bent over; she tried to steady herself with her hand on my back as I gathered up the nylons with the toe ready for her toes. We both hobbled around a bit, trying to find our combined balanced and pull those nylons on, we lost our breath as we howled laughing, which was funny but didn’t help our cause. We awkwardly moved in a slight semi-circle, cracking up as I pulled them up carefully, it hurt to pull them up too fast, then started over on the other side. Finally, success! We conquered nylons! It is the little things.

She had a ball at the wedding, danced all night because she was born to boogie. She had a little limp, and every couple of songs, she would wince out loud, grab my arm for balance and say something funny about the searing pain when she danced a bit too enthusiastically, “Ohhhhp, that’s the bad one!” She insisted on keeping her high heel shoes on because it is doesn’t look pretty to take your shoes off; be barefoot when you are formally dressed up like that, and she didn’t sit down all night. That is just how she insisted on rolling–with it.

***

Less than a year later, a bit under that five-year mark, she relapsed, and the Leukemia had morphed into something else entirely. It had moved throughout her body. I was unaware of this progression, but she was weighing heavily in the front of my thoughts, so I called her to see how she was doing. She did not sound like herself; she sounded weaker than ever. For a moment, I thought I had the wrong number, but I knew I didn’t. She didn’t tell me her cancer had metastasized, but I knew. Our call was short because she was too tired to talk; it was hard to understand her; she barely closed her syllables completely. When we said our goodbyes, she managed to clearly say, “Thanks for the call, I am going to go lie down and get ready for my dirt nap!” It took me a moment to register what she said, what it meant; it was really funny and made me laugh, her teasing death that way. We hung up, her comfort with her approaching finality gave me about a second of comfort, then I cried, knowing I wasn’t likely to see her again.

A week after that call, she entered my thoughts, but in a relentless pounding way, I was overcome with sadness thinking about her weak voice and laughed again at her clear dirt nap humor. It was around midnight, so it was way too late to call her. She had not met my little boy yet, who was ten months old at that point. I thought about how I wanted her to meet him, which is why I had called her the week before. They were both so darling; I thought they should definitely meet and hang out. She was very much at risk for infections, so I kept my distance for fear of maybe having a hidden cold or virus that she could get exposed to, so I had waited. The next day Kelly called to tell me Shelly had left this earth the night before around midnight. She made it to 29.

I knew it was coming maybe even quickly based on how incredibly weak she sounded just a week ago, but it didn’t matter. No amount of rational preparation really PREPARES you for a departure like this or any other, I suppose. I could not stop crying. I feel like every death I had dealt with before hers was a natural death, just the natural order of the life cycle of things. You are born, live a LONG time, have a good life, and die of old age, that and probably boredom. I understood the life cycle in the abstract, and accepted those deaths. Hers was not any of that. It felt unnatural, like a rip-off. Never mind the fact that she was unable to have children as a result of the first round of chemotherapy that ruined her ovaries or eggs, that was the first rip-off. That reality sucked royally because she would have been an amazing mom, but now she was just gone, gone from this earth. I felt so bad for her mom, her younger sister, and her husband and all of her friends, for myself, for the world. This was not a better place anymore, with her NOT in it.

I had not stopped crying since Kelly’s call. The memorial service was standing room only of many sad, sad people. All the right music was played, and plenty of kind words spoken. A bright pink balloon got away from its bouquet and was dancing around on the ceiling stuck in the current of air from an A/C vent somewhere up there, distracting me as it bounced around which I welcomed; there was talk of her being a bomb, which was true; she had the energy of a nuclear bomb once upon a time. So it wasn’t just me who couldn’t keep up, that was good to know. The simile could not have been more perfect. I was impressed with her friend Saundra for making it through her bomb speech without tears. Yet, none of it was comforting at all. I assumed that was common.

People filed and filed and filed out of the several exits out of the sanctuary, down the meandering road of the cemetery to her prepared grave beyond the building, well into the center of the property. She was buried next to her dad David “Swede” Savage, who had also died at the age of 29, the result of a race car crash competing in The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. They both lived very fast, very full lives in their short earth years. I cried some more, well, I guess I hadn’t actually stopped crying, so I was still crying.

After the graveside service, I suppose most people went to the thing at Shelly’s grandmother’s house. I didn’t go to the thing. I didn’t want to see anyone, especially Shelly’s mom. Shelly and her mom were close. As a fairly brand new mom myself with all the newfound understanding that comes from those human bonds, I just could not bear to see or think about her mom, what she was enduring right then, and what that will feel like forever.

Dave had driven himself to the service in his wheelchair (yes in the busy streets again) as it was not far from our house. He was a very independent sort, we didn’t sit together, I didn’t even know he was planning on going, or I would have driven him. There were hundreds of people there, he usually was pretty visible, but I didn’t see him in the big crowd after the graveside service. If he needed anything, he would have let me know, and he often would duck out of events and head elsewhere.

I went home, changed clothes, drank a big glass of water, and cried some more on our side porch until I simply ran out of tears. My eyes reached critical mass, the point of no return, no more fluid. My face was swollen; my eyes burned like hell and sandpaper. I lost track of time, dried out on our porch, staring blankly at my FBFFs former house across the street that was poorly maintained. I stared, irritated, stuck in the thought of Shelly being cheated of life, as well as stolen away from all of us, and rightfully so, I wasn’t even the most important of the us in the equation, I was one of many.

Dave came hauling ass down at 6 M.P.H. Arrowhead Avenue (IN THE STREET) and around the corner of 25th Street. More than an hour of annoyance had gone by on the side porch on that side of the house, I was still dried up and completely wiped out. He came up in front of me and stopped quickly. I tiredly looked up with my swollen eyeballs and asked, “How was the thing?” “I didn’t go.” I was surprised because he always did the proper thing. Always, AND he also really liked food. I flatly responded, “I should have gone, but I just couldn’t take anymore today, I am physically wrung out, my eyes are dried out like beef jerky from crying so much. (Pause) Where are you coming from?” He had been gone a while and came from the general direction of the thing up the street at her grandmother’s. “I was at the cemetery.” I grimaced, thinking about him hanging out at the cemetery like a weirdo and asked, “Were you skulking about the cemetery looking for friends?” He offered a quiet comment in a tone that sounded almost surprised as the words came to him, “I was her witness.”

I wasn’t sure I heard or understood what he said, “what?” He repeated, “I was her witness.” But this time, he understood what he called his action that day and spoke clearly. I needed more information and irritatedly asked, “I don’t know what that means.” He took just a moment, “I stayed–after everyone left, I stayed–with her. I watched as they buried her.” As he continued talking, my eyes began to fill with tear reserves from who knows where. “First, they lowered her casket into the ground. Then they put a concrete vault on top.” I was growing more upset as he spoke. “Then they replaced the dirt and finished by planting grass. I watched, I was there with her; I was her witness.”

I thought I had run dry of tears but NOOOO. They poured out of my eyes like red hot lava as he told me how they put dirt on my friend. Her dirt nap joke was NOT funny right now. I still did not understand his comment about being her witness, “Her witness? What do you mean you were her witness? Is that a thing we are supposed to do?” He was not oblivious to my state of further unraveling and softly spoke as he dared continue explaining, “I just didn’t want her to be alone. Everyone else left. Someone needed to be her witness, of the last of her earthly body, and I wanted to be that someone. I was her witness.”

You think you cannot be consumed by crying any harder than crying REALLY hard. Well, a whole new wave of searing hot lava tears and emotion completely tore through me at what he was describing finally became clear to me. And they are flooding me again now as I think of what a thoughtful human being he was to think to “Be her witness” to wait and watch my friend be properly buried for her dirt nap.

I had to lay flat on the concrete of our porch. I was further eviscerated by his kindness and disappointed in myself for not staying with her, for not thinking of staying with her and also a little annoyed with him for always thinking of the right thing to do. I was in a bad mood already and couldn’t take anymore: “OH MY GOD! Could you JUST tone it down a bit?” He was surprised at my request, “What?” I added, “You are such a good person. For Fuck’s sake, could you JUST tone it down JUST a LITTLE? You make the rest of us mere mortals look SO bad.” Seriously, this was our life with this guy. In every situation when and where it really counted, he always did the most thoughtful and correct thing.

He quickly realized how he was making ME feel about myself in that moment on our porch, when my eyes lied about tears, on the day my friend was in the ground at Waterman Cemetery. He sheepishly felt bad for all of it, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” He genuinely didn’t want me to feel bad that I had not thought of staying with my friend. He wouldn’t want anyone to compare themselves to him or his life or feel bad in the balance.

I laid there on the porch with my hand on my forehead, irritated with the world and him, and incredulous at how kind my God damned brother was. I laid there in the shadow of my brother, who just apologized for making me feel bad because he had done something unbelievably kind. “STOP, just stop apologizing!” He interrupted me with a barrage of “I’m sorry! SORRY! SORRY!” trying to slow down the damage of my train going further off the rails; I cut him off with raised voice, “OH MY GOD, JUST STOP–TALKING!”

My hands were covering, trying to soothe my burning eyes as I rolled on my side and started laughing uncontrollably. I was a hot mess of too many conflicting thoughts and way too many emotions, I was indebtedly grateful and in awe of his huge kindness, and I could not stop laughing at his ridiculous, continued kindness and modesty in my lifelong struggle comparing myself to him, just being his sister was laughably ridiculous! That was the moment I recognized how similar he and Shelly were, I was lucky to have these two people on my path, and I just understood and accepted him for him and me for me separate but equal. He laughed his barking seal of a laugh at and with me, which made us both laugh harder at all of it.

If I hadn’t been stewing on our porch, I doubt he would have ever told me about his moments in the shade at the cemetery. Even though it temporarily tore me apart, and still does a little, I am glad he did. We need beautiful brushes with humanity to teach us to expand the boundaries of possibilities for thoughts of kindness, to restore our faith in the goodness of being, to motivate us to keep living because life is essentially mostly magical. I didn’t know I needed to hear of that beautiful kindness for the sake of kindness gesture to end that day. But I did. It was perfect for her, and he was the perfect witness. He was such a gentleman. It was the only thing that gave me comfort then and still now. I need to go lie down on the porch for a bit.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2020

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