• Through the Looking Glass

    Yesterday, I attended a funeral. As some of you may know, Natalie’s mom passed away in the early hours of Mother’s Day morning. This may be overstepping my bounds a bit (even though it was announced in several public places), but I hope that Natalie will understand that my intentions are good.

    I haven’t been to many funerals in my life. I usually choose to avoid them. Not because they cause me to look at my own mortality, but because usually I would rather my memories of a loved one not be clouded by all the tears and sadness that are staples of a funeral.

    I had never met Natalie’s mom. I was there because Natalie is my friend and I love her dearly, and I wanted to be there for her. To show my support and to honor our friendship. I can’t even imagine what Natalie is feeling right now, but in my head it is akin to stepping into a alternate universe of some sort. Where everything you thought you knew and could count on for your whole life is suddenly different.

    As I sat in that room, full of people who had loved this woman I had never met, I was surprised at the strange feeling that spread over me.

    You see, I’m an atheist. So it’s not terribly surprising that my views on death are not really the norm. I believe that life should be celebrated and lived. I believe that death is an inevitable part of life, and as such, isn’t all that sad. I didn’t expect to feel much of anything, aside from compassion for my dear friend and her family.

    The pastor made time for people to tell a story or share their thoughts. One by one, people began to stand and share. There were tears and laughs and memories. I listened respectfully, knowing, of course that I didn’t have my own story to tell.

    But if I could have, this is what I would have shared:

    I never met Debbie Aldridge. She is a complete stranger to me. I’ve now heard stories and seen pictures and I feel honored that I was allowed to attend such a personal event.

    I may not know her, but I know this: What an amazing woman she must have been. Because she is the centerpiece of a loving, warm, funny, caring family. Because all of these people love her so much. Because it takes an amazing woman to raise a daughter like Natalie.

    And I am humbled. I am moved by all the love in this room. I love that this family is able to laugh through their tears and see that an end to suffering is a good thing, despite the fact that they will all miss this woman they so cherished.

    I truly wish that I had gotten the opportunity to spend time with Debbie Aldridge. She seems to have touched every person she met. But I am so lucky that, even if I didn’t get to meet Debbie, I get to have Natalie as a part of my life. I am so grateful for that.

    I sat silently. I only teared up once (damn you, April), but I didn’t cry. I almost felt that my tears would be cheap. Cheap because I didn’t know this woman. Cheap because I hadn’t lost anything. Selfish because I get to keep my friendship with Natalie, even though she has lost someone who was such a huge part of her life.

    Last night, when I finally got home and laid my head on my own pillow, my mind was whirling. I was exhausted and emotionally drained, but I couldn’t sleep.

    I’ve been wracking my brain for a couple of weeks now, trying to figure out what I could do to honor Natalie’s mother. To show Natalie that I love her and that I care about her. I thought about asking people to do something with me, but right now, that also feels cheap.

    What I’ve settled on is this:

    I will live my life with my arms wide open. I won’t be stingy with love. I will laugh. I will give back. I will try to touch the lives of the people I meet. I will dance. I will create memories. I will leave a lasting impression.

    And if something ever goes horribly wrong, and I end up with children, I will raise them to do the same.

    I will learn to cherish my own family and be a part of their lives (if I can). I will find my passion. I will remember that my best friends should be a reflection of me and who I am, and that they are family, too.

    So to any member of Debbie Aldridge’s family who may ever read this, just know that the woman you loved so much has touched my life, too. Thank you for sharing that with me.

12 Comments


  1. michelle says:

    that was so touching. attending services for a friend’s relative is hard. i don’t think i’ve ever had such a strong reaction in the wake of someone i never met
    .-= michelle´s last blog ..known your uterus =-.

  2. Emily says:

    I totally understand. I went to the funeral for the exact reasons you did, but also because I just wanted to do something.

    I didn’t get a kleenex coming in, thinking, well I never met Debbie, so why did I need a tissue? I borrowed one from the person next to me, and it looked like some sloppy wet rag by the end. I was just very teary.

    I didn’t know Debbie either, having never met her. So it’s very confusing as to why we tear up. It could be that funerals are just very emotional. So why do we cry? The only answer I’ve been able to find is that the heart just weeps for others.

    As they were talking about this person I had never met, it was very obvious how much of Debbie is in Natalie. It’s still very sad, but I think if anything, their family can get some kind of peace with Debbie’s passing, simply, because she is living on, but through Natalie and Bobby.

  3. Denise says:

    Very touching, Shine. Eloquent and well written. You really should write for a living.

  4. April says:

    Damn me? Hmph.

    I love you. I love this. And I think this is perfect.
    .-= April´s last blog ..We Shall Dance =-.

  5. Marie says:

    Beautifully said and wonderful post.
    .-= Marie´s last blog ..Bit of a Surprise =-.

  6. Sean says:

    Shine – I can completely relate. Earlier this year I attended a funeral for a high school classmate of mine. He was a year behind me – and had just had his birthday. 33 is too young to die of “natural causes”. While it’s not in my genes to show emotion, but rather to be there for those around me, I did notice there was almost not a dry eye in the place. My wife attended, even though she had never met him, and even she was tearing up. The worst, or most ironic, part of it was that he felt that he never made an impact or mattered in anyone’s life. There was a church full of people who certainly disagreed with that sentiment.

  7. This is one time my words are failing me. Shine, I can’t even come up with an adequate statement to express how much this post means to me. It is true to Mom’s character that she will continue to touch people’s lives (even if only through relationships with her kids and her family) long after she is gone, and I thank you so much for offering such a wonderful, heartfelt response to her service. I love you very much.
    .-= Natalie Cottrell´s last blog ..The best gift for the most amazing mother? =-.

  8. Laveda Gage says:

    Shine,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a beautiful note. You would have loved Debbie just like the rest of her family does. Natalie is so much like her mom that you might say that you have. She was such a sweet caring person who never complained. I was so happy when my brother found her. She fit so well in our family. She will truly be missed. Thank you again for your beautiful thoughts.
    Laveda Gage

  9. Elly Lou says:

    That was absolutely beautiful – and it’s painfully clear that Natalie’s mom was also beautiful. I needed this reminder on the joys of life today. Thanks.
    .-= Elly Lou´s last blog ..Stiff (as in Cadaver, not “Bored Stiff”…but Now That You Mention It…) =-.

  10. Chris says:

    That’s a wonderful tribute, Shine. Thank you for reminding me that they stay with us.
    .-= Chris´s last blog ..Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues! =-.

  11. LiLu says:

    I can’t wait to hug you in two days. This is beautiful.

  12. Deanna Hilbert says:

    Shine, I am seeing this for the first time today. 7 years and 3 days after my oldest sister passed away. It’s beautiful. Thank you for your support for Natalie. There are 12 years between both me and Natalie, and me and Debbie. I’ve always felt as close to my niece as my sister. She has SO much of Debbie in her. Debbie’s sweet personality continues to bless us through both her kids, and now were hoping to see that spunk in her grandkids, too! Throughout her funeral and the days, weeks and even years that followed, I felt an overwhelming peace comfort me, which I attribute to God’s grace and knowing she is in a better place. It’s the first time I’ve lost someone so close, and I was strangely surprised by the calm I felt. So again, thank you sweet girl for those words, and know that they’re still a gift 7 years later! Hugs to you!

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