Funeral for a Friend

17 Nov

Late last week I attended the funeral of a friend, Marie Kamara. There are lots of sad and probably trite things that can be said about the loss of a 33-year-old woman in the prime of her life, but I will not say them here. Instead, here are some thoughts:

1. For the first time ever, I decided to NOT go to the casket. I have never liked paying my respects to the left behind part of someone, but in the past I’ve always forced myself to act like the process gave me peace. Well, it does not, and this time I didn’t pretend. Honestly, how could seeing Marie’s corporeal self give me any consolation? Marie herself had the most wonderful smile of anyone I have ever known. That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. No undertaker could do justice to that smile. As her brother said at the service, every time she smiled it looked like she had 50 extra teeth in her mouth.

2. Family matters. Marie’s family is big and strong, and they will carry her husband Sam beyond the loss. Marie’s mother and father are from Sierra Leone, and they came to America and settled in, of all places, Ft. Wayne, Ind. Marie grew up and played women’s basketball at the University of Delaware. She was competitive, and I think she learned this from her mom, who apparently is a killer bowler. One time, Marie told me about going bowling with her mother. Her mother would not let anyone off the hook. She was so competitive that she lit a fire under everyone around her to do better. Marie was that way, too. She had expectations for people, in a quiet way. If she disapproved of something, she would just roll her eyes or say, “Okay, if that’s what you think you should do.” Marie was even keel, and a lot of this had to do with her family. When I met her parents and many of her relatives, they were wearing traditional African robes from their original home. They knew where they were from. And they were sad for the loss of their beautiful daughter, but they also have faith that all life moves forward.

3. The people we work alongside have talents we cannot imagine. Marie was that way. We worked together for some time and got to know one another in that setting, so it’s through the work lens that our friendship grew. I knew that she loved dancing and acting. We talked a lot about it. But I never knew of her talent, and I regret that I never saw her perform. The paper this week had a good story about her performances with the local acting company. I’m so proud to have known someone so well-rounded, so fulfilled as a person. I want to make sure that I see through a wider lens with my colleagues in the future. The necessary focus on “getting things done” at work can be so limiting at times. I want to see more of the whole person in the people I cherish.

Go in peace, Marie.

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