I went to the funeral of a young, beautiful, vibrant woman who died of breast cancer this past week. It was a heart-breaking event that caused me to pause and reflect on my life, on how I will or want to be remembered and on how I spend my time. It took two planes then a nine hour drive to be able to go to her funeral, but it was worth it.
Tricia was no shrinking violet. She was smart and strong and spoke her mind and I loved that so many people were there to honor her for being such a strong woman. She and I shared the fact that we are married to very smart men. Even though she was younger than me, I loved the way, and studied, how she held her own in debates with him. She spoke her mind and never shied away from Thanksgiving table debates. I didn’t really find my voice until recently and there are times I still consider taking the soft-spoken, sweet girl route and not rocking the boat. I’m glad she rocked the boat, that she had strong ideals and wasn’t afraid to share them.
We were also both moms. Her girls got up and read a poem at her funeral and I was amazed at how much of not only her physical beauty they posses, but also how much of her strength. I’m not sure I could have done the same at their age. You could see that though they were devastated by the loss of their mother, they both have her spirit. I could see the amazing women they will become, in part due to this tragedy. Some are crushed by an event like this, others are forged by it.
I was struck by the ways her family embraced and celebrated her feminist ideals. Her pallbearers were all women, the preacher spoke of how important it was to her that her daughters not believe in a world that limited women, a woman from the church sang “I Did It My Way.”
Funerals are important for the living. They give us closure and allow us to grieve together and comfort each other, but this one, for a young mother, did more than that for me. It strengthened me and made me more committed to writing this blog, writing novels, jumping out of airplanes, getting tattoos, and basically not living a chicken-shit life any more. It confirmed all the positive changes I’ve made in the past few years.
I didn’t allow myself to get into thoughts of why this had to happen to her. I don’t believe there is some master plan or reason for such a tragic death. But I do believe that we can choose our reaction to it. I’m using the deep sadness I feel about her death to reaffirm my life. Because of Tricia I will continue to be stronger, to have opinions and crusade for causes I believe in and to raise my sons to be good men who appreciate strong, smart women.