2007 version of the crown
We came home with a bag full of books, flyers, and craft projects. There were several temporary tattoos in the bag. She insisted that her father apply a "U.S. Bank" one to her forearm immediately. As he was affixing it to her skin, I reminded him that I was taking her to a memorial service shortly and that maybe tattoos weren't the best idea. "It's okay, she's wearing long sleeves," he assured me.
The memorial service was for a wonderful woman who attended our fellowship. She died of lymphoma on March 26th. I'm always careful not to say that "so-and-so lost her battle with cancer." The terminology has always makes me wince a bit. To say that someone "lost the battle" seems to imply that they didn't fight quite hard enough. It's simply not a fair fight. It seems there is no rhyme or reason to who makes it and who doesn't.
I debated all week whether or not I should take the kid. She probably doesn't remember Lee, because Lee had not been at the fellowship much in recent months. However, Lee always got a kick out of my daughter and the way she sometimes dances in the aisles during hymns and runs her mouth during storytime. I decided that Lee would have been down with it.
We headed downtown to the building where the memorial was being held. They were receiving visitors from 2-4, with a memorial service at 4 p.m. I decided we would pay our respects, visit for a bit, and then head out before the service started. The building was very crowded; Lee touched a lot of people during her life and it seemed half the town was there. As we made our way inside, I paused to talk to a friend from church. A headed the opposite way and started chatting up some strangers near the bar. "Look at those curls!" I heard one of them say. After a few seconds, I decided I'd better retrieve her. "Oh, she's a doll!" one of A's fans told me. "She was just showing us her tattoo!" Thanks, husband.
We made our way into a small alcove where about a dozen people were watching a slide show of photos accompanied by music. Many of Lee's personal belongings were laid out around the room. It was clear that no one was getting out of that room with dry eyes. I remember many a Sunday at church when Lee would tell the children's story during the service. She would settle into the wooden rocker, a dozen or so children at her feet. She wore these reddish glasses that snapped together between the lenses (a magnet, I suppose). I remember those lenses clicking together and then she would read a story to the kids. She was a master storyteller. In fact, Lee wrote a children's book and there were some copies of it laying around with the other items. There were puppets (she was a puppeteer, among her other talents), a hat she wore during chemo, acorns, and photos laid out on the tables. But somehow, it was seeing those glasses that caused the biggest lump in my throat.
A and I settled into a corner and I read Lee's children's book to her softly. Meanwhile, the crowds continued to pour in. So many that we actually had to wait in line to get back out of the building when it was time to go.
The last time I saw Lee, she asked me, "And how are YOU?" It wasn't just a perfunctory question tossed over her shoulder in passing. She stopped, looked into my eyes, and waited to hear my response. Her colorful knit cap was pulled down to her ears, a visual reminder of what she called "the rude intruder" that was wreaking havoc inside her. "I'm doing well," I responded a bit sheepishly. I may never manage to live my life with as much grace and faith, but it's surely a good reminder to try.