Sunday night, as we tucked the kids in at TEN O’CLOCK again, Juliette sleepily declared that this had been the best weekend of her life. Now, Juliette is prone to exaggeration and Lord knows, she feels all the feels, but this time I could see her point.
Saturday she’d dressed in her favorite pink garden dress, worn flowers in her hair, played at a friend’s house, then attended an outdoor party with live music, a tire swing, and tons of snacks. Sunday she went to Ms. “Wee-Ann’s” house, a beloved preschool teacher, swam in the pool with a billion teenagers, then donned ten pounds of Mardi Gras beads and took off for a riverfront parade, where she danced and waved roses. She set the flowers afloat, climbed back in the car and went to yet another party, complete with lots of hugs and, again, TONS of snacks. What’s not to love?
No. It wasn’t just Memorial Day.
It was a funeral.
It was a cry-until-you-can’t-breathe, use-every-tissue-in-the-box, hug-until-your-arms-cramp, glorious, devastating celebration of life and send off into whatever comes next.
The church was overflowing. People crammed into the choir-loft, leaned against the walls, spilled out the front doors. It felt like all of East Nashville was there.
Kim wasn’t a celebrity. She was a mother and a gardener, a traveler, a reveler and a school librarian. She wasn’t flashy or loud or self-aggrandizing. She was funny as hell but never attention seeking. She was often the quietest person in the room. She didn’t write a best-seller or cure cancer – though God knows, we all wish she had. There are scores of things she did do that I could list for you, but here’s the important bit:
Kim loved well.
And that’s enough. It’s more than enough. That’s the very hardest best thing. That’s the thing that packed the church. That’s the thing that glued all those people together for event after event all holiday weekend long.
And here’s the magic, the alchemy that turned the worst weekend ever into the best: In the midst of our grief and anger and feelings of injustice, we remembered how to love each other.
We cried and danced; threw up in the yard and petted each other’s heads. We kissed each other’s children, some we hadn’t seen in two years and twelve inches. We plugged old numbers into new phones, plugged new numbers into old phones.
At home, we vowed to do better. We discussed dinner parties and guitar pulls. We looked up our friends’ gig dates and actually marked them down in our calendars.
Sunday evening, there was a second line parade. We met at Riverfront Park and danced our way down to the shore. As the band played Do Whatcha Wanna we tossed flowers into the river and bid farewell to Kim, sobbing and clapping, dancing and sending traveling mercies. It was a send off almost worthy of such a beautiful soul.
It’s unseemly I suppose, to say that a funeral was inspiring. But there it is.
I’ve been letting things get in the way of the important work of loving. Things like laziness, perfectionism, fear. I’ve been holed up with my books, computer, and the best of intentions, but little follow through. Kim’s weekend made me resolved.
I refuse to let another friend’s birthday go by uncelebrated. I refuse to wait so long between visits that my tribe’s children look like strangers. I refuse to think that social media is an acceptable stand-in for real relationship. I refuse to put off inviting friends over because my house is trashed.
So watch out.
I plan to show up in worn-off makeup and ill-fitting clothes – the way I usually look – hauling an extra forty pounds and a box of “homemade” Kroger cookies.
But I’ll show up. Yes, indeedy. Because as everyone this weekend said, “We gotta stop meeting like this.”