You know I came to your funeral, right?
You know I paused all that was pressing, just corked the Niagara Falls of things to be done, and I came.
You know this is how I tried to keep loving you:
I showed up.
You would have loved that.
And maybe you would have loved if I had showed up more.
Showed up with an old frayed blanket and told you — not asked you, but told you — that we were ding right now to the park with a stack of old books and nothing to do but watch the clouds.
Or if I had called you back that time that I thought it was too late already.
If I’d stolen five whole minutes from some demanding screen, grabbed even a postcard and scrawled you three lines — about how there isn’t a laugh in the world like yours, about how you handed me a life-supply of courage because you loved me like this, and yeah, you pretty much beat me at everything, but I win at this — I love you more — and then licked a stamp.
If I hadn’t walked by that scarf that was screaming your name in that boutique when we were on vacation— if I’d surprised you with it for Christmas or your birthday or any day at all.
If I’d been less of a jerk and just come told you straight up that time about feeling hurt a whole lot sooner — think of all the time we’d have saved, time that now we don’t have.
I heard that voice in my head, just before I bought that plane ticket the day before your funeral — “No point going now. Show up when they’re still around — because when there’s a coffin, there’s no point. It doesn’t matter to them one iota now.”
Yeah, so that voice in my head, that’s always my Dad, and he does have half a point. It matters when you show up — and I did show up when you were between rounds of chemo and we spent that afternoon with the sun on our backs in that big window at Starbucks and you showed me how to knit the sleeves for that sweater.
And we had dinner with your Uncle Joe and your Mom and Dad in that Italian restaurant up in Michigan and your Dad asked the waiter to turn the music off because we were the only ones there and he was pretty adamant that the loud tunes ruined the taste of our spaghetti. You taught me that because that’s how you lived: Don’t ever love by halves, because that’s not how anyone becomes whole.
And there those million emails, ten million messages, and a handful of girls’ weekends where we made the time for each other and we all laughed like hyenas over takeout and cried late at night over kids and motherhood and what it means to never stop labouring and delivering, and you finished knitting those matching socks for all four of us and we didn’t know how we’d ever walk away from each other.
I can close my eyes and hear your laugh. And your voice on the other end of the line and how you would say it always unashamed: I love you. Why do we not say what we mean until it’s too late to for it to have any meaning?
And the Friday after Good Friday, has me a thousand miles from home, standing there at your funeral with yet another pair of many (15?) prayer socks you knit for me, wondering what in this ache do I know about love and how can you, you, be in that draped wooden box, and how, in the honest name of God, will I go on without you, and did I ever take enough time and say it enough different ways, to really make that clear to you?
I stood there in your St. Ann’s, that church at the end of your block where you’d taught hundreds of kids Sunday School, I stood there looking at your casket and not understanding how you could be in it, and how we’re all guaranteed to one day be set in our own wooden boxes, and that’s what leaked through the fissures:
There are one of two roads you can take through life: the Impressive Road or the Eulogy Road.
The Impressive Road is about impressing people, about creating your own parade of accomplishments, about trying to get people to step outside and applaud when you pass by.
And the Eulogy Road is about about letting the love of God and the needs of people impress and form and shape you, about being the Samaritan who sacrifices to help the other wounded paraders, about stepping inside to applaud the forgotten and about never passing anyone by.
What drives us and this world, and drives us to drive our children, to build a successful life of laurels rather than focusing on building a meaningful life of love?All that show up at funerals are your friends and family — not all of your feats.
It’s not titles and power that show up in pews — it’s the people who do.
The people you wrote cards to and went to their kids’ recitals.
The people you took the time to call long after everyone else stopped, the person you gave a second chance to, who you started over with, who you forgave when they expected you to walk away.
The people who you never stopped persevering with and showing up for and loving large and believing big and giving your all to.
You know why I was a mess through your whole funeral on Friday?
You were the friend who gave us all that secret key:
Inconvenience is the proof of Love.
That’s the bottom line: You love as well as you are willing to be inconvenienced. How well we inconvenience ourselves for each other is the real sinews of community, that binds friendships, that ties relationships — not how well we impress each other. Inconvenience is the DNA of healthy love.
And that’s why you always go to funerals:
You interrupt your schedules and go to their funeral because once their kindness had interrupted your needs.
You always choose the inconvenience of going to the funeral, because they chose to inconvenience themselves for you: that’s what love does.
I wanted you to know that — how you loved like that, like a gold medal champion. How that church of St. Ann’s had filled up on and I’d turned to look at all the people there on a Friday morning for a woman who had avoided the Impressive Road — Impressive Roads can lead to dead ends — but who chose the Inconvenient Road.
Inconvenient Roads are the Eulogy Roads that turn out be the best journeys that never end — because love never does… your love moving on forever and ever and ever.
And that’s why we all pulled on those socks that you knit us and we showed up —- because you were the kind of person who showed up when it was inconvenient because that is what showing up means. Your handwritten notes showed up with a box of my favorite chocolate bars on the day when I could hardly swallow for the grief. You’re the one who made the point to reach out in the middle of the night when life as we knew it was imploding and you were never afraid of our pain.
You were the kind of person who never counted on somebody else to show up for us, so you didn’t have to — because you knew that:
The people who can be counted on to show up are the only ones who have something real to show for their life, whose lives really add up to anything at all.
You pursued souls instead of success.
You made your life ultimately about being inconvenienced because there is ultimately nothing more impressive.
We all said that standing there at the cemetery in an aching gust of spring.
That we didn’t want to leave you. That we didn’t want to walk away because you had loved us not in the expected transactional, tit-for-tat kind of way, but in this startling, unexpected transformational way: Loving people without expecting anything in return always turns out to have the greatest returns.
I picked up one of the petals of the white roses that blew off your casket.
I held it as we drove out of the cemetery and out by you, one last time. The only way to live a remarkable life, is not to get everyone to notice you, but to leave noticeable marks of love everywhere you go.
It’s never too late to live a remarkable life. Just start leaving marks of love now — right when it’s inconvenient. And then tomorrow. Not twenty years from now. Not two weeks from now. Now. Right now. Always in the inconvenient right now.
You know I set that white rose petal of yours right there on the windowsill, right?
Right there by the ticking clock.
several photos from Friday, courtesy of my friend, Ginny Sheller, a Sock Sister beloved too by Elizabeth