Before I begin: apparently that law of attraction stuff really works. Last week, I wished to be less tied to technology. This morning, I dropped my seven-year-old Mac laptop on the kitchen floor, and um, it definitely doesn’t work anymore. I am now on borrowed-computer time, which, although annoying, should ultimately result in less overall computer time, for me and for Doug.
This afternoon, I went to the Celebration of Life for my friend’s mom, Nini, who passed away in November. It was a very informal, beautiful event: they began with a slideshow set to Beatles music, then invited anyone who felt so moved to share stories and memories. I, at my friend’s suggestion, got up and read the letter I’d written to her mom several months ago.
But, at least for now, this post is not about me. What was so amazing was that, as the afternoon unfolded, people just kept getting up to talk. It was like we’d all forgotten there was food waiting for us in the next room. Everyone had a memory to share – most made us laugh, some made us cry. And it was incredible to see the common threads being spun between the eulogies – Nini’s character was so fundamental that everyone in the room, from chance encounters to lifelong friends, had seen the exact same things in her as everyone else had.
- “Passion,” began my friend’s younger brother. “That pretty much says it all about my mom.” He then went on to tell a childhood story about asking for help with his multiplication homework, and how Nini (not a math whiz) would ardently do the problems with him, getting them all wrong, before referring him to his engineer father.
- “About five years ago, I had an opportunity to move to Los Angeles with my band,” explained another friend of ours from high school. “Most people, when you tell them you’re moving to LA to be in a band… Well, it’s not the formula. But Nini, when I told her, was like, ‘Yes, Curt! Go! When else in your life will you get to do something like this?'”
- A coworker/protegée, laughing through her tears, said, “Nini used to tell me, ‘If you want to cry, wait until you’re alone. Go to the beach.’ Maybe that was why everyone always saw her laughing; she did her crying alone at the beach. Then she would tell me, ‘Now that it’s over, you can put it behind you and keep moving on.'”
- Another coworker told a story of when she’d bought a sailboat, and moved to Mexico. “Before I left, Nini gave me a little plaque, with a picture of a sailboat on it, and it said, ‘You can, if you think you can.’ And she did. And I am.”
Nini was an incredible, joyful, sometimes-strict force to be reckoned with. She believed in the fundamental goodness of (all) people, she believed in forming relationships, and she believed in following dreams. It seemed like every single person in that room had a story about the time that, in some way, she had motivated or inspired them to be everything they ever wanted to be.
Back to me.
I have Nini to thank for getting a shy, big-nosed teenager to believe she might be beautiful after all. But hearing all those stories today, I felt almost sorry for myself, that I hadn’t kept in better touch with my friend’s family since we graduated. What else might have I done and seen and become over the last decade, if I’d had her present in my life to encourage me to live passionately? If she had listened to my unsure ramblings about what I might be able to do with my life, would she have been able to decipher my heart’s true desire, then told me to go for it?
“Yes! Go! When else in your life will you get to do something like this? Now that it’s over, you can put it behind you and keep moving on. You can, if you think you can.”
I feel like it’s only appropriate to link to the website my friend set up, in case anyone should feel so moved as to want to help contribute to Nini’s memorial. The family is planning to place a commemorative bench in her honor, in the wildlife reserve behind their house.