Monday, August 22, 2016

A Smaller World

I lost a friend last Friday.  Alison Piepmeier was larger than life, a passionate and eloquent advocate for her daughter, Maybelle, and for equality in all things.  We met online, back when I was still writing, and then in person at my first NDSC convention in Washington DC in 2012.
2012 NDSC Convention
She missed the next few conventions for various reasons but I always assumed we'd meet up again at the next one.  But then her tumor came back.   I had planned to go help out for a weekend but the dates were moved and moved again and then there was no more time.   So in the middle of July, a week before my 5th NDSC convention, I manufactured a trip to Charleston and was able to spend an hour or so with her in the morning.  And then another hour in the afternoon.   She was weak, she occasionally fumbled, trying to find the right words, but was as insightful and vibrant as always.
Charleston, 7/11/16
I, however, couldn't find any words.  No profound, comforting thoughts about her looming death, or leaving her daughter nigh orphaned.  Nothing about what her friendship had meant to me.  I hugged her and told her I loved her and left flowers.  I hope that just showing up counted, a little.  I suspect my visit was more for my benefit that hers.  I worry it was intrusive - two plus precious hours lost to random online friend - but am profoundly grateful her mother let me have that time.

Even more so now that I couldn't attend her memorial on Friday.   At least I got to say goodbye in person.

Alison had this gift of making you feel like the most important person in the room.  She was warm and enthusiastic about everything from a FB snapshot to long rambling post.  You can see in the hundreds of comments and eulogies that she made everyone feel just as special and I know I am but one of hundreds who loved and will mourn her.  I am, by contrast, a tetchy introvert but her loss is that much more profound to my small world.  I hope I can show up for my other people with half as much gusto as she did.
Alison Piepmeier
12/11/72 - 8/12/16

Sunday, March 27, 2016

And then came the sun

I ran another half marathon last weekend, this one benefiting our local Down syndrome group.  I've told anyone who asked that it was a terrible race - I hit a wall about mile 8, my legs felt like wood, and it was snowing.  Despite a much flatter course and bonafide training I finished a full half hour slower than last year.

But the first half of the race was beautiful.  The race wound thru some old neighborhoods with massive trees in full spring bloom.  The flowers clashed with the dark winter sky and the snow was falling soft and heavy.

It was magical.  But it suddenly occurred to me that the snow would kill off the blossoms.  Mutually exclusive acts of nature.  And my face crumpled into an ugly cry right there in the middle of the street as I thought this magical thing that I had wrought might be taken early by the very same, mutually occurring thing that makes her beautiful.

It is quite likely I was simply hypothermic and hypoglycemic.  But the memory of the snow on the flowering trees has stayed with me...  as has the fact that the snow was melting by the time I got home.  The flowers survived.  Comfort can be found in the strangest corners.