Yesterday we celebrated the life of my beautiful friend. I want my words to Dezare to sit in a place where I can always turn back to them, where anyone can always come back to them, and remember the life she lived and the heart she gave to me. I guess I will start with saying that in the last 24 hours of my life, I have discovered a new level, a new step of grief that I didn’t know existed. Maybe I realized it through the loss of my best friend. Maybe I realized it due to the fact that we weren’t able to celebrate her life until a year later due to COVID. I don’t know. What I do know is that the emotions, thoughts, and feelings I have experienced over the last 24 hours have awakened something that I hadn’t given too much attention too. Sometimes, this blog is a place for me to process and just let my mind say what it’s going to say. So bare with me as my hands and heart work through this.
I struggle to find a word for this stage of grief. I hope as I write this it will manifest itself in to a word.
One year ago, I lost my best friend. Nothing has hit my heart harder than this. I question it, and I feel anger. I feel resentment and I feel confused. I don’t know if it’s because her faith in God was so strong that I question why he took her from us so soon. We all needed her. I know she is still here, but as I process all of this, I think of our memories. When she visits me, because she definitely does, I am thankful. It makes me smile, it makes me sad, but it also makes me incredibly grateful that she chooses to say hi to me when I need her most. Whatever faith you choose to believe in or not believe, I truly believe her faith is what gives me these moments. I am not going to try and explain them or justify them or call them coincidences. They are truly unreal when they happen and it is a deep feeling of joy and disbelief all at the same time.
My interpretation of a celebration of life, is a time to honor the soul that is with God, and we definitely did that. The energy and love in that room was something I have NEVER experienced in my life. In the past I have always seen this as a way to give us, here on earth, some sort of weird closure, for lack of a better term. It’s a moment to step back and share memories with their loved ones and to notice and appreciate the life well-lived, the lives touched by such a sweet and compassionate soul. Closure might be the wrong word but more of a step in the process of grieving that needs to happen to move forward.
Having celebrated this life a year after her passing, it brought back a lot of emotions I think I tried to push away. I think it made me realize how stagnant I have been in my own, personal grieving process. Maybe thats the word, the step. Stagnancy. That’s it. I was, and maybe I am stagnant in my process. I am in a place where I feel stuck in our memories, stuck in the hurt, stuck with the hole in my heart that will never be repaired until we meet again. I am not even sure where this step falls within the “steps of grieving”. I just know it is where I feel I am. Stuck. Maybe it falls before acceptance but I know she is no longer here. I have accepted that but I am stuck in this feeling of how? Why? Why her? Of all people, WHY HER???? Why does God give people cancer? It is a disease of suffering and happens to so many good people. I don’t get it. I know this is probably the hardest lesson of understanding God’s purpose. It is one that I often reflect on in my own journey. I have seen suffering and I fear it. More than anything, I fear that. I also find some sort of odd peace in knowing that when my time comes, she will be right there waiting for me.
I feel stuck in every step of grief right now. I feel stagnant. I feel like I don’t know where my head is at with anything. Maybe it does have something to do with celebrating her a year later and bringing up all of these emotions that I tried to hide for so long, or that I didn’t want to acknowledge because I was focusing so hard on staying positive and believing in a better purpose for her, and for myself. The reality of her no longer being here, is a hard one to accept. The memories we shared, the laughs, the inside jokes, HER laugh, they are all stuck in my head in a little box that I just opened again. Sort of like a jack in the box, spinning around until they all popped out in full force initially jolting my heart, followed with the smiles and laughs behind all of the special times we shared, and then back again. Circles? Confusion.? Why do I still feel so lost? Why do I still feel so…..Stagnant? Will I always be here? Is this the place that grief ends? Is this the step that you never accept because it’s not something that is ever going to change? She’s not coming back. That box of laughs and memories is always going to be in my mind. The whole in my heart is never going to be repaired. It just isn’t. How can it be?
Occasionally I cry knowing I cant just pick up the phone and hear her voice, or text her so I can receive her amazing words of encouragement and this is where I want to share my eulogy with you, forever. I truly hope you continue reading this, because this is us. This is my heart. She is my heart and I never want these words to go away. I want the world to know who Dezare, who Ernie is to me, and who she will always be to me in life, in my journey with cancer.
Dezare - My Collateral Beauty
Collateral beauty means memories, life experiences, actions that tie one person to another owned by 2 people in their mutual experience in life. These two people unconsciously agree that when one parts from this physical earth, this collateral beauty, which has a value and a beauty all its own, becomes solely owned by the physically present. The beauty of that relationship will cause much sadness and grief. However, as healing begins to replace that grief, the beautiful parts of the relationship can be treasured and valued again - for a lifetime. I personally know that I am not healed and that I am still trying to grasp that we are here today but what I do know is that Dezare has shown me so much collateral beauty, inner beauty, and I want to share what that beauty means to me, what she has given to me, and continues to give to me. Dezare, I know you are giving me the strength to do this right now AND
If Im being honest, There is a part of me that hates that it was Cancer that brought us together but I know its you that made this journey a little easier for me and vice versa. I am her Burt, and she is my Ernie. I will not speak in past tense of her because she is here with me, with us, always.
When I was diagnosed in 2013, I hadn’t opened up my heart to connect with anyone because I was afraid. About a year later, I met Dezare at a support group meeting. My hope is that as I read through this you feel the same energy from Dezare, that I felt that day - the same energy she managed to maintain through out her recovery and new diagnosis. Y’all I love Dezare. I love her as much as anyone else in this room today. I miss her but I know, she is here. Today, tomorrow, and always.
I don’t want to get in to the nitty gritty details of the hard moments and hard conversations we had together, they were very few and far between because we always agreed that we would speak healing, hope, and life in to our bodies and our minds. I carry that same attitude with me today - because I know that’s what Ernie would tell me. It is is how I choose to live each and every day, Like Dezare.
1 year after Dezare was re-diagnosed, I was re-diagnosed with stage IV cancer. And though this isn’t about me, it’s important I share this with you and thank her for putting herself aside to be by my side, despite her own diagnosis. She delivered her special tea to my doorstop with little notes on the bottom of the jars that reminded me God was always with me. She called it God Juice. She dropped off little gifts with little stickers on the bottom and my confidence in knowing she is still here, is finding these little gifts at random moments in my life when I need her most. It is typically followed by a picture in my phone that randomly pops up. On the same day, within moments of finding her little messages. These photos remind me of all of the memories we share together. Sometimes, I feel guilt in wishing we spent more time together, or wishing I was there for her in the same capacity she was for me but then I see these photos and I am reminded just how much her and I lean on each other it brings me peace. I still lean on her. I always will.
I cant begin to explain or even comprehend the moments that she visits me. We see what we seek and my heart is so open to welcome her visits and acknowledge her with a simple Oh Hey Ernie! In those moments, I truly stop, and thank God for sending her to me. I am eternally grateful for her continuing to open my eyes towards God and reminding me when I need her most, she is still there - He is still there. When I question my faith in God, I see Dezare and I think of Dezare and I strive to believe like Dezare.
There is nothing that can possibly prepare you for the moment you realize that you may be saying your last earthly goodbye…or see ya later. I say that because I know I will see her again. I feel at peace knowing when my time comes, that girl will be waiting for me with open Ernie arms, with a glass of her special tea, with her unique laugh, and her incredible hugs. Her laugh. Stop and imagine that laugh for a moment. SO beautiful, so distinct, You could walk in to a room, hear that laugh and know that her voice is near. I miss that laugh. Its contagious. Oh how I wish I could pick up the phone and hear her but I know if I take a moment to listen…its there…in my heart forever. Just listen. You will hear it too, I promise.
I believe me and Dezare share the same soul. The same love and zest for life. The same appreciation of having the windows down, the music off, and simply listening to the birds sing. It’s what connects us. I still stop to hear the birds and the wind, for her - and for me. It’s those little moments that bring her and I joy. The simple ones. Her family is my family. Her family is everyone in this rooms family and that’s the beauty of who Dezare is. That is the collateral beauty she gives to us all. To me. Her soul and legacy will live inside of so many hearts forever and that is what gives me peace.
What I know Dezare wants most for all of us is to not cry but to keep living life, laughing, taking and breathing in the simplicity that surrounds us all. She wants us to remember a life well-lived; well loved, to live with that same intention and with our hands towards god. It is the best gift we can continue to give to her and her spirit here on earth. Ernie I promise to live this life with no regrets, with hope, with healing in mind and I will do everything I can to honor you, and the holy spirit daily. I will speak your life in to my life for as long as I am blessed to do so. You are not forgotten - you are here - I see you. A piece of my heart, my soul; and sometimes I want to even say my faith went with you. Sometimes I am mad at God for taking you but he needed you and in time, I hope to understand why. I know there is a greater purpose and I will choose to believe that your laugh, your heart, your healing, are allowing you to dance In the skies and protect us all with your Angel eyes. You are my flock of birds. You are my wind. You are my inspiration. You are my heart, my joy, my friend, and my Angel. Keep sending me your little whispers, I love them. I love you. I miss you and when I feel that pain in my heart, I promise to lean in to God and my faith, knowing thats what you want for me, for all of us. I love you dear Ernie - from your Burt down below - always. You are everywhere. You are my collateral beauty. You are OUR collateral beauty Dezare.
I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. Anywhere I go, you go. Here is the deepest secret nobody knows. Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life - which grows higher than soul could hope or mind can hide.
You, Ernie. You grow higher and higher and you give my soul hope and life and my mind, everything in my being will strive to live like you.
I carry your heart. I carry it in my heart. Forever.