A good friend of mine took her own life last week. It was shocking. It was horrible. It was sad. It was an event that I can’t even begin to process yet. I’m sure I’ll write about it at some point, but I can’t even get my head around it right now. But, I can tell you that I did what we all do when something like that happens: I spent some time with people who knew her. In this case, it was my girlfriends from Knoxville where we all lived when we hung out over 10 years ago – Kim and Karen.
I found Karen’s husband on Lorna’s Facebook page in the midst of all the postings about her death. I emailed him initially to ask him what happened. It took me awhile to find out that she had not died of natural causes. The next morning, Karen messaged me back and told me what happened. I told her I wanted to come for the Memorial Service and asked if I could stay with her. She said yes.
We ended up talking on the phone Friday afternoon, and it took about one minute to get back into our regular rhythm of banter that had always been so easy between us. Of course, we talked about Lorna and how shocked we were at the week’s events. I told her I had some pictures of all of us, and I’d bring them. We both felt a little better when we hung up, and I immediately started the long drive to East Tennessee.
When I got there on Saturday, I felt as if I had seen her last week for breakfast. I walked into her kitchen, and immediately she and her husband and I just chatted about what was going on for the weekend, their new house and Karen’s new dog. There were four of us that were friends from about 1994-1998 when I moved to Seattle. We were all married with no kids. We did all kinds of things together. Us gals met at the YMCA where we worked out in the 5:30 AM exercise class. The women went on trips together, and we often had couples’ dinners at each other’s homes. We all knew each other pretty well. And, now, one of us was gone….not moved….not divorced…but gone….FOREVER.
We drove over to the Memorial Service chatting about what had been going on for the last 10 years, light banter. Then, someone said, “We’re almost there.” My stomach seized up. Oh, God. I don’t like this part of being a grownup. We all got really quiet. When we arrived, the line was out in the parking lot to talk to Jim, Lorna’s husband. This was billed as a Celebration of Life, and it was. There were pictures of Lorna with all her friends and loved ones scattered all over the place and a big digital display with many of her Facebook photos flipping by in slideshow. Her smile was larger than life and plastered all over the place. I missed her. The pictures really brought her back. I was transfixed by those pictures. I can see why they do that at funerals now. I was immediately transported to a happier time.
I think pictures capture moments and bring up memories that cannot be triggered any other way. My friend Karen said it best when she said that the pictures helped because all she had in her mind was that horrible week, but the pictures made her think of the whole picture of Lorna.
I take a lot of pictures. It’s one reason I love Facebook. I love seeing the pictures other people take and imagining what is going on in their minds and in the background. I am selective when I take pictures, though. Sometimes taking pictures can take me out of the moment. At times I just need to be present and take pictures in my mind. I’ve found that if I take a moment and consciously “take a picture”, I will remember that moment as if it is photographed. The nice thing about those is I don’t have to find them. I just have to call them up in my brain. I know some people don’t like to take pictures, but, remember it’s not about how you look, it’s about remembering who you are. One day, it will be a beautiful memory for someone.
They had a picture of our little group on one of the tables. It was one that was taken at Lorna’s house. The four of us were laying on the floor with our chins in our hands, big hair, heavy makeup and all. We all stood there for a minute or so and looked at it. I was thinking about our friendship. I was thinking about the problems in our lives at that time, problems that just seem silly today. But, it was the picture that brought me back to all of that. I was immediately transported to a better time.
At dinner afterwards, we got out the box of pictures I had chosen from my home in my hurry to get to Knoxville. We had a great time, passing them around the table in Litton’s, one of our favorite haunts back in the day. There was one of Karen with rollers in her hair, no makeup and ironing. Karen looked at it in shock. “When was this?” she screamed. “I don’t iron.” We all laughed. I said, “Well, you’re right there doing it.” We talked about each picture at length, whose house it was, what we were doing. Karen was astounded that we were all dressed so horribly. “How could we all dress like that and nobody say something?” she said.
I had several pics of Karen and Lorna at home in their pajamas. Being the single one and the one living away, I had stayed at their homes more than once. And, I’ll be honest, I think my friends are the most beautiful when they are in their broken glasses with their hair a big mess and sans makeup. That’s when they are the least pretentious and the most fun. Witnessing that look tells me that I’m a part of their world, and they don’t have to put on a show. In most instances, we’re drinking coffee.
Each photo brought up story after story and memory after memory. We were all, of course, ten years younger. And, Karen was right, we all dressed like crap. I don’t know what was up with that because we are all clothes horses. But, we were always, always smiling or laughing. There were pics of a picnic at some river. Nobody could remember whose place it was or how we ended up there, but we remembered the day. Several pictures were taken the night before I moved to Seattle. I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before. A cute guy had been in town, and we stayed up all night talking. Then, I had to pack my condo and went to Karen’s for dinner and socializing. I looked tired. They looked great. We all looked happy.
When a picture of Lorna by herself with her cat came up, we all sighed. When the pictures of Lorna in Seattle surfaced, we all got quiet. A picture of Jim brought me right back to how he looked yesterday, tired, numb, sad and devastated. It was so hard to be together and not have Lorna waltz in with her loud country mouth and laugh and pull a chair at the table. I kept waiting for it all night. I had to keep reminding myself that it wouldn’t happen. Not now….not ever.
We took a picture of the three of us at dinner. We were all smiling. We looked happy. We viewed it in the camera, and I thought, “something’s missing”, but I didn’t dare say it. Karen did. “Oh, there’s only three of us”, she moaned. That gaping hole in that picture said more than the smiling picture said itself. It brought me back to the memories of this week. I was immediately transported. That’s what pictures do. They take us to a moment in time. Our minds paint the rest of the picture with whatever feelings, events and memories were surfacing at the time. One day, we’ll look back at that picture and say, “Oh, that was the first one we took without Lorna, the night of her Memorial Service.” And, we’ll all sigh. Because we’ll be back in that moment….immediately transported to that very sad day.