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My favorite parts of any newspaper have always been the wedding announcements and the obituaries.
At 14, I volunteered as a candy striper at a local hospital, and while sitting in the employee lunchroom, I discovered the New York Times.
I would go on to read other papers, but the New York Times, I believed, had the most fascinating couples and well-accomplished, well-honored, and loved dearly departed.
Although they are polar opposite when it comes to the emotion each provokes, they have one thing in common.
A bright light is shone on the accomplishments and life of the couple and of the life lived by the soul who no longer walks the earth.
I would read and get lost in their words and how perfect their life seemed, because that’s what the written words conveyed. I wanted to know these people, and I believe when I was 14, I wanted to be these people and be loved by them.
With the empty, worthless feeling I was carrying, combined with ongoing heaps of trauma and sprinkled with being a teenager, I was desperate to find the people I would read about.
Growing up where I did, I had never known this type of person.
I didn’t grow up around anyone with a college education, so how could I plan and dream of one?
Growing up in chaos, the adults around me struggled for their own survival, so I felt I was never held as a child by anyone who was devoted or who fought for my growth and well-being.
What foundation could I begin with?
What model could I choose?
Obviously, I started out with the model I had learned, one of survival in chaos.
I didn’t see these perfect people I read about in my neighborhood or school, not even in the church where I learned to pray.
I wondered where these perfect people lived.
I wanted what these perfect people had because I believed the words I read that said they were happy and did everything right.
I wanted to believe such people existed, and as I left my childhood home day after day for longer periods of time, little by little, bit by bit, I discovered that indeed these people I read about did exist.
Leaving my home and bouncing from place to place, starting at 16 years old, I walked through many doors that led to what looked like the perfect people and their perfect lives. I sat around tables with people who had everything I had read about and dreamt of.
I got to see up close all that glittered and glowed, but do you know what?
The longer I stayed, the glitter wore off, the glow would fade, and the show grew tired.
The people were not so perfect; it was all a ruse.
They were just as broken as me in the same and in different ways.
That is when I was started to realize that as humans we are all flawed and that money has a tricky way of hiding the truth and the lies.
So much hides behind words we read in a newspaper, a magazine.
So much is hidden behind that beautiful Instagram picture or words in a tweet.
I wrote a wedding announcement and an obituary of no one I know. I just wanted to paint the picture, share the idea that all of what we read might not be the whole truth even though it sounds romantically true.
I spent my younger years trying to find the fairy tale, looking for an alternate universe I could escape to.
I wanted someone to save me, to make life not hurt so much. I wanted to be adored. I wanted to be seen.
I wanted it so badly.
The couple: the bride and groom met while both attending a mutual friend’s wedding. As a child, he summered in Cape Cod. She spent summers with her parents traveling Africa enjoying picnics next to wild hippos. The groom graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, she wore a dress by Vera Wang, and he proposed in Cinque Terre, Italy, where they would also honeymoon.
The deceased: he was the beloved son, husband, father, and grandfather, a World War II veteran who put his life on the line for his country, and upon returning married his high school sweetheart. They lived a perfect life with their six children. He loved fishing at his cabin in upstate New York and riding his Harley. He was devoted to his family and spent weekends teaching his grandchildren all that he knew. He was loved by all.
If you notice, there isn’t anything negative or disparaging.
Each shares only the good.
Withheld are the moments that these people were human. Omitted are the opinions of others they may have hurt or wronged because each is written by a loved one or sometimes by themselves. Unshared are the family secrets of dysfunction and pain.
I’m not sure when it was that I began to see past the material things that hide the real, like makeup that covers a zit.
There is an amazing feeling that happens when you realize that we as humans are all the same; the only thing that separates us is the stuff.
Strip us of the “things” and we are left looking into a mirror when we look at another.
I believe that each and everyone of us has a Divine purpose in this life and I know that the road to my authenticity will bring me closer to my peace.
I’ve surrendered to what is. I surrendered to where I came from and who I was and who I am, knowing that my thirst for truth, my truth, will be necessary to shed what I am not.
I know me better than anyone and I now know that only my opinion of me will bring me peace.
I have not died, my body is still here, but there are parts of me that I’ve carried and shed that need to be celebrated for their journey.
And then I need to light them up and let them go.
Declutter my head, a cremation of all I shed.
Death is absolute for everyone.
When my time comes, I am sure my loved ones would agree with all I’ve shared in my premature obituary.
I wrote it for the parts that are true and will always be a part of me, but now they need to be put to rest.
I’ve met them, I’ve named them, and now I light them ablaze and set them free.
Freeing myself to continue to heal and learn all that I am meant to, free to share my love and lessons with my adult children while hoping to share them with their children some day.
Dianna was born to Noel and Caroline.
She came into the world screaming and did so for most of her childhood.
She lived her early years in a post-traumatic shocked state fighting the world with utter confusion and a wide range of emotions, all while knowing she was meant to change the world even if it was only her own.
Many dark stories buried in a place that couldn’t be reached, Dianna surrendered and gave them to God.
She held no degrees but believed she was indeed a spiritual scholar; from a baby, she learned how to dig out from under the darkness that had befallen her. She was held in the light of God during these moments; that is how God saved her.
Her highest priority was learning to understand and love herself.
Like the rings that show the age of an old tree, each layer of hers was frozen in place, and just like the tree, they were a part of her majesty.
They made her who she was.
She loved her children with every ounce of her soul and only wanted for them to live their best lives, to be their truest selves. To learn their own heart and to follow it.
To always trust and go with their gut and their own inner voice because going against it would keep them from their peace.
She loved adventures with them and their friends; waking everyone up at midnight to have a snowball fight in the yard was among the ways she would connect with them.
When they were little, Jell-O fights in the kitchen, melted marshmallows in the yard flung from a stick and stuck in one’s hair was another.
Summer days spent at the beach, friends always welcome to a house full of food, yet another.
Warm, clean pajamas after bathtub moments of deep questions. Deep pains of her children would make her hunger to be a better parent. Time froze and the moment aglow when they would ask hard questions, leaving it imprinted in her heart forever.
When she listened to them, a light would be shown where their pain was and how she could do more, do better. All she wanted and prayed for was to be better, better for them and for herself.
When she turned 40, she married the love of her life. He loved her all the while she proved to herself that she was worthy of good things, worthy of of being loved. They hiked the highest mountains together to discover the quiet of the wild. This is also where Dianna found the quiet in herself.
After many years of finding the wrong ones, at 41 she was blessed with a therapist who helped her work through the hard things. They would start to work on the mounds of trauma stuck inside.
Here is where the truth started to surface.
She was a loving mother and wife and anyone who knew her saw her heart once they looked past the frantic desperation of her shell.
She took with her the hundreds of other people’s secrets and the broken things that they hid because she knew they were human too.
She spent the rest of her life walking toward peace and gave grace to all who hurt her.
She believed all beings were good and the bad you saw was just pain left by another, pain they couldn’t move through and away from. Pain they were stuck in.
She lived the latter part her life living in the light that God intended.
Her mission was always peace.
She worked every day for the peace within, knowing it was the key to her freedom and the freedom of her children.
They know that she isn’t gone; she lives in them always.
She lives in the rays of the sun.
She lives in the glow of the moon.
She lives in each twinkle of the stars.
She lives in the breeze that blows through their hair and the sand that fills in between their toes.
She lives in the music that each of them play.
She lives in the peace that settles their soul; she lives in them always.
We have the New York Times weekender delivered and I spend the week reading through them little by little.
The wedding announcements are different now. They are filled with beautiful stories of diversity, love, and the battles that were fought to get there.
Although I still look forward to lavish words in each and every wedding announcement and obituary, I see them with a different understanding now.
I read them with the eyes, heart, and emotion of a woman who is healing, and that changes everything.
What would you want your obituary say?
Something the world may not have known about you that could be of benefit to just one someone, somewhere?