Now, more than any other time in my life, I believe that every life touches another for a reason.
As I made the drive to Dallas yesterday, I reflected on the twists, turns, and quirks of fate that bring one life into contact with another. Sometimes a person moves into your life and stays, a comfortable fit like a favorite pair of slippers. Sometimes we explode into one another's lives for a short, intense, but still relevant period.
We may not know at the time the "Whys," but eventually the universe reveals to us what we have learned, why we have been touched, why we have been honored with real estate in someone's heart.
Since Toni's tragic passing, I have spent long hours wondering about the Whys of my placement. The Whys of your placement. I certainly never started DGMS thinking I would be standing at someone's memorial service. In truth, DGMS was started as a self serving place where I could write exactly what I wanted. No editors hellbent on 15 rewrites, no restrictive word counts, and certainly no filter on subject matter.
But then people started to find it. Links were forwarded, comments left, and the "hits" kept increasing daily. The addition of my American Idol ramblings only served to take those numbers and triple them, quadruple them, and so on.
But a funny thing happened on the way to this forum. People like Toni stumbled into the front door for an AI recap, and stayed for everything else that was evolving.
A family. A feeling that there was somewhere in cyberspace where intelligent debate was taking place on the comment board, where people genuinely shared, and genuinely cared.
And Toni was a part of that. You are a part of that.
Last night, as Lori, Lori, Dorothy, Denise and I walked up to the SGI Center for the service, I had my first IRL encounter with the beauty and grace that is Wendi. Her hug was one to add to my "Best Of" collections, and her strength was humbling. Make no mistake, with Toni's granddaughter and grandson growing inside her, there is an ache of emptiness where Toni should be, but she stands tall, and has a smile for every one she meets.
When we entered, we were each given programs.
And from front to back, I was again struck with the wonderment of WHY? Why had I - why had DGMS - been chosen to somehow be a conduit of all of this. From the front which showed the photo I had mocked up for Namaste, the honor of being listed inside, to the final quote Toni posted at Facebook on the back - the quote she had commented on at DGMS one minute before she stole it and posted it on Facebook - I simply marveled at lives touching lives in such a profound way.
I have never been to a Buddhist service before. I was, quite simply, enchanted - no pun intended. At 5pm, the congregants began chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo - over and over and over for nearly 20+ minutes. And while there was that typical human moment of giggly discomfort at not knowing what is taking place, it was quickly replaced by the feeling - the intense feeling in the room.
You see, the chant is obviously audible - all those unique voices - but it quickly turns into something powerful you can actually feel surround you, move through you. A vibration of sorts which centers you, calms you, envelops you like a hug.
And when it stops, you know it was a feeling because you are suddenly aware of its absence. You begin to understand the peace and focus which attracted Toni - to have this incredible system in her life - a system which made sense when so much didn't make sense, which encouraged her forward motion when other people would simply give up and stagnate.
The service included a heartfelt eulogy, a small grouping of people called Universal Rhythm who sang John Lennon's Imagine. (The group included a perfectly petite woman toting a full on oxygen tank, tubes looped behind her ears, and up her nostrils - but who sang her heart out to all of us. She was glorious.)
As I sat there with the DGMS coven, I still felt a little like an interloper, I think we all did. We were given curious glances throughout, and I knew that I needed to explain a bit about who we are, and why I had the insane honor of standing before the room and paying tribute to Toni before I started with what I had prepared.
I truly appreciate the words Lori, Lori, and Dorothy have left in the comments - that they were proud of me - I was proud of me, too. Not for surviving a public speaking gig - that doesn't phase me - I do that a lot. But I realized as I spoke that there was a rhythm to what I had written in trying to capture everything she meant to all of us. There were laughs to break the sadness, and a lot of time to simply convey that Toni belonged to a family that is still reeling from her loss.
For me, it was quite powerful to know that you were all lighting candles and reading at this time. All I can say is I FELT you. I FELT Toni.
Afterwards I enjoyed hug after hug from total strangers who were suddenly not strangers at all. They were simply lives that mine were meant to touch. We were meant to explode into one another's lives - maybe for that moment, maybe forever. So many were moved to promise that they were going to start coming to the blog, to experience the incredible family of which Toni was such a huge part. So when you see new names begin to show up, don't be surprised.
After people began to leave, I was able to meet Jason, to hold him, and to look into eyes that would break your heart in half. There is so much depth to this young man, so much love, and right now - so much pain over losing his mother. He told me that when he spent time with her in LA in her hospital room, he climbed into the bed with her. And while the doctors assured them all that Toni's head trauma was such that she was already "gone," he told me that as he lay his head on her shoulder and spoke to her, the heart monitor's beeping increased, strengthened. Toni's connection to her children will remain. As I have told Wendi, as long as you carry her in your heart, she will go wherever you go, experience all that you experience.
Jason is lost right now. But I assured him, he has been "found" by DGMS and to not even think of trying to escape. The same with Wendi - she has promised me she will set up a registry so we can get working on our virtual baby shower and begin caring for these babies who are soon to make our family even bigger.
And she asked me to be there when the babies are born. If I have to move heaven and earth, I will be. To stand in for Toni would be one of my life's biggest honors.
Make no mistake, I am still pissed off at Toni for not looking both ways. But I am so grateful for the lives who have begun to touch mine, yours, ours as a result.
I want to thank Lori #1 and Lori #2, Dorothy and Denise for being there. Your support meant the world to me, and I know everyone was so touched to see a small representation of everyone here at DGMS.
As I drove home this morning, I again pondered how lives come together for a reason. Thank you all so much for exploding into mine.
Here are some scans of the program, and a few photos Lori took along the way.
Front of the program