My dear friend, Viola, passed away the week before last. It was after the Marathon Bombing, but before the manhunt in Watertown. That was a tough week on many levels, and the news hit me hard. I can’t really believe it’s already been a few weeks; when you hear news like this it seems like the world just has to stop. But it doesn’t.
Viola had been fighting cancer for a long time, so the news wasn’t altogether unexpected. That doesn’t make it any easier though, does it? Viola was an amazing woman, and I considered her my mentor. She lived her life in a bold and colorful way that made people gravitate toward her. Last week, Wes and I went to the Shiva that her family held at their house. We went on the last night, and there were so many people telling stories about this wonderful woman who meant so much to them. It’s weird to gather in a room with a lot of strangers and know that the thing you have in common is this one person who isn’t there.
That night, Viola’s daughter, Anna, talked about how much Viola loved babies and how big her hands were in comparison to a baby. I’d never noticed how big her hands were, but as Anna was saying it I thought, “Yes! She did have big hands!” I pictured how her hands would look holding Wes, and I took a mental snapshot. They didn’t get a chance to meet, but at the Shiva, I showed him her paintings and some photographs of her. I hugged him a lot, and he hugged me back with his little baby arms right when I needed it most.
This video, by Julia Morgan-Leamon, shows a little glimpse of what it was like to spend time with Viola. The best part is her laugh. She really had a delightful laugh, and since she was a happy person I heard it frequently. I’m so grateful that I can watch this video and listen it whenever I feel like it.
The last time I saw her was Novemeber 17, 2012. We were working on her website and talking about life. She was so alive, so up, just like every time I saw her — like she is in this video. It’s a good way to remember her. I’m sad she’s gone – so very sad – but mostly I feel fortunate to have had any time with her at all. She was and always will be a bright light in my life.
There’s an Eskimo proverb that I love. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I find it comforting:
Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.