Encouragement, Life Is Beautiful

Loss of a Friend: Going Back and Going Forward

I’ve lost a friend. Four days ago I received news that one of my closest friends since childhood had left this life. My reaction surprised even myself. I gasped and my hands flew up to my face, covering it as if to shut out the information I’d just learned and somehow make it untrue.

I wanted to write. That’s what we writers often do when we’re struggling with something: we make sense of it on paper. It’s our therapy. But words didn’t come.

Lisa was a writer. This was a fact that had bonded us at an early age. We’d compare thoughts, poems, and stories. She was the only person I knew who loved writing as much as I did. “The moon is keen and I like green” was one of the most memorable stanzas from an early poem she had written.

 

I immediately made preparations to travel “back home” to attend Lisa’s funeral. Amidst the planning, I received a text message asking if I’d like to speak at the service along with a few other friends. I froze for a moment. Public speaking scares almost everyone, doesn’t it? But I quickly accepted. I knew it was an honor to be asked. I said a silent prayer that I’d find the words that would do Lisa justice.

In gathering to remember Lisa, we went back in time, to the time we remember Lisa best, before she suffered a traumatic brain injury eighteen years ago. Going back, we laughed at her whimsical behavior, the way she’d have a million ideas all at once as if she was frenzied, juggling balls in the air. We friends, many of whom traveled from hours away, gathered at a local watering hole for laughs, memories, and a toast to Lisa and all that she meant to each of us.

For two days I struggled for the right words to speak at her funeral. This was the last thing I would be able to do for my friend and I wanted to make her proud, I wanted it to be a comfort to her family, and I wanted it to comfort me. 

One thing you should know about Lisa is she was steadfast in her relationships with friends and family. She was loyal and supportive, encouraging and loving. She also had the ability to reinvent herself on a daily basis. One day she was a wild child, embracing life and squeezing out every last drop of excitement and experience. The next day she was quiet, introspective, silently soaking in everything and contemplating it.

Lisa had a brilliant mind. Some say she was born in the wrong era, that she was a flower child at heart. One story recalled over these days spent honoring Lisa was that years ago, she announced to an uncle that she would one day purchase a VW van and journey with him to California. Lisa had dreams that knew no bounds. And had she been given the chance, I have no doubt she would have lived out every one of them.

Lisa was untamable. She was a force, a wind. She was here and then gone, fleeting yet resolute. She was a dreamer, a creator, a poet with purpose. When I spoke at the funeral, I was honest…Lisa couldn’t be captured in words alone. Her essence had to be told in stories–“Lisa stories” I call them.

I recalled her unique fashion sense, in high school wearing men’s boxers…outside her jeans. She loved challenging herself and those around her, making them think. Early in high school we both agreed to read The Fountainhead and stretch our minds a bit. I reminded folks of her compassion (as if we need a reminder…we always knew). I spoke of a time we encountered a homeless woman in Detroit and all Lisa had to give was the baklava she had purchased moments earlier. But give she did and this woman accepted it with a smile of appreciation.

I didn’t mention the time we went to a well-known quick haircut place where we’d made appointments to get our hair done for our friend’s wedding. As bridesmaids, we wanted to look great. As out-of-towners we had no idea where to have an updo done so we went with what we thought was the safe choice, a hair salon chain. We’d been specific when making the appointment.  We wanted French twists.  Could they do those? Yes, they’d assured us.

The wedding day was there and we made our way through the city and nestled into the salon chairs side-by-side, ready to get glamorous. Each stylist would comb out our hair, then start to backcomb it a little, comb some more, repeat. It was a little like pushing your vegetables around on your plate as a child hoping your mom wouldn’t notice you really weren’t eating them. Lisa and I exchanged confused glances in the mirrors we faced.

Time was ticking. The wedding wouldn’t wait. Finally, I asked nicely if they really could do the French twist we were after. With sighs and shame, both women admitted they couldn’t do it. We assured them it was okay and tried to hurry away. As we walked out the door, Lisa ran back and left her “stylist” a tip. Ah, Lisa.  A tip for the gal who couldn’t perform the service. There’s no one sweeter than Lisa.

lisa

I’ve learned so much from Lisa over the years. Perhaps the most valuable lessons I learned just now as she passed. The friends who returned from afar to see her off, the countless memories everyone has of different phases of her life, how truly loved she was by so many people, and how many lives she had profoundly touched are all testimony to what an amazing person she was. Lisa didn’t squander time. She lived it to the fullest.

In the going back and remembering and learning, we can go forward and take Lisa and her lessons with us. She was a dreamer and an artist and an encourager of others’ dreams. She was a rebel and a friend, a sister and a daughter, an aunt and a niece. She was many things to many people, but she was always this…beloved.

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.” ~Jack Kerouac


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16 Comments

  • Reply Doug January 14, 2015 at 12:47 am

    Hi Melanie, I am impressed with the heart to heart genuine way you share your thoughts and feelings. I feel like I have just shared a drink with you at that watering hole you mentioned. Speaking at Lisa’s funeral was not the last thing you could do for her. You have written this post and introduced her to many new friends. She will live on every time you remember and tell a story of your adventures and lessons learned together. We live on as long as there are people who remember us. Blog on so that we can remember you too.
    Doug recently posted…Budapest Tour 1My Profile

    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com January 14, 2015 at 12:32 pm

      Doug, thank you so much. You are right…Lisa is being remembered here and becoming known to new people. For as long as we’re reading and writing about her and talking about her, she is still with us. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  • Reply Bethany January 14, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    Your words are so genuine here. I am left without the right words. By far, you have given such a gift to so many through sharing this post. Praying for you during this time.
    Bethany recently posted…New Well LifeMy Profile

  • Reply Kim January 15, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Please accept my condolences. Lisa sounded like such a great friend. It is amazing how remembering makes us realize how important of a gift time is. Thanks for being vulnerable enough to share some memories with us.
    Kim recently posted…It Is Well – Encouragement for the SoulMy Profile

    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com January 15, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Kim. Lisa was a great friend to many people. I’m glad you could glimpse who she was through this piece.

  • Reply Amy Hagerup January 15, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    HI melanie, I really felt like I knew your friend after reading your sweet post. Thanks for sharing your heart as you shared her love for life. What an awesome gal. Go gently now, Amy
    Amy Hagerup recently posted…5 Easy Steps to an All Natural Facial TreatmentMy Profile

  • Reply Gina Duke January 15, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    So sorry about the loss of your friend, Lisa. I recently spoke at an elderly aunt’s funeral, too, so, I know how important it is to do the person justice. Unknowingly, my uncle did not schedule anyone else to speak so I basically “preached” my first funeral – lol. Sounds like LIsa was a wonderful person. ~gina

    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com January 16, 2015 at 11:29 pm

      Thanks, Gina. Lisa really was wonderful. I’ll bet you did a beautiful job at your aunt’s funeral and what a blessing that you were able to speak! It’s not easy.

  • Reply Kristi Miller January 16, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    Oh, Melanie. I’m so sorry for your loss. Lisa sounds so lovely. I had a friend that sounds similar to your Lisa. Especially the story about her going back to tip someone unable to perform the service. We need more hearts like that in the world. Thank you for sharing a piece of her heart and your memories with us. <3
    Kristi Miller recently posted…Step 1 of 6 in the WaitingMy Profile

    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com January 16, 2015 at 11:31 pm

      Thank you, Kristi. That was so Lisa, tipping someone like that. She was sunshine wherever she went.

  • Reply Bonnie Lyn Smith January 21, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    This is a beautiful tribute. Just stopping by, but I’m very sorry for your loss. She sounds like one-in-a-million, and you capture her very well for those of us who didn’t know her. Blessings!

  • Reply Robert Jenneman January 30, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    Dear Melanie,
    Clearly, you are a writer. You have captured and reignited my most vivid memories of Lisa. Lisa. Lisa. Lisa.
    I struggle to express myself now. And that is ironic, since writing to Lisa (many years ago) was one of the best outlets for creative expression I’ve experienced in my life. We shared several letters / exchanges when she was in college. Her words; by phone, by mailed letter, in person… were always deep and inspiring to me. Even though I had not seen Lisa in many, many years, it has been the memories of her true soul and spirit that has saved me again and again. Her influence on my life remains significant and will forever touch the lives of everyone I can influence in this positive way of loving, feeling, creating and seeking life the way Lisa did. Lisa did. Lisa did. Lisa really did. I’ve missed Lisa for years. I’ve never forgotten her, though. And I won’t. She was the most unique person I’ve ever known. Beautiful in so many ways. heart, brain, soul…. Thank you again for your lovely and thoughtful words, Melanie. It is obvious that you really knew her.

    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com February 1, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      Oh Bob, thank you so much for your words! Lisa wasn’t easy to capture so I’m glad you could see and feel her in my writing. She truly was a special person, an original. I’ve never known anyone else quite like her. I think many of us got those famous Lisa letters with writing all over the place, in every corner of the paper, sometimes written in a circle, and she didn’t waste any space on the envelope either. Those were covered with writing and drawings. 🙂 I think she lived 100 years in her 26 before her injury. She didn’t waste a second. I remember you from high school and that Lisa was fond of you. There are pieces of Lisa in all our hearts and because of that, she’ll always be here. Thanks so much for reading. I’m thankful I could “channel” a little of Lisa here.

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