2010, Granada Hills, CA
On the night of Lisa’s funeral, we gathered at her house, the other Notre Dame ’93 gals and I. Lisa, Lisa, Suzanne, and Julie (yes, there were three Lisa’s, once.) We drank her liquor. We told stories in her living room. And then we stayed the night.
Suzanne and I slept in Lisa’s bed. The bed where she died. The bed where her body was found.
It should have been morbid and possibly even creepy. Maybe it should have made us uncomfortable. I wanted it to make me sad and uncomfortable. I am not sure why. It’s not like I had an absence of feeling. Just that morning I had stood before about 400 people who loved or admired Lisa or loved or admired those who loved her, and read aloud the most important thing I have ever written. I was emotional. I was drained. And I was super disappointed that she didn’t get to proof it first, because I know she would have laughed her hiccupy high-pitch laugh, because it was fucking funny. In parts.
I shook as I read it. In fact, in the moments leading up to my funeral march, literally, to the pulpit, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do it. I couldn’t stop shaking, and I had pretty much lost my voice the week before because I was so sick with the flu. I had walked around for days with a scarf wrapped snugly around my neck several times, drinking hot water with lemon and honey, like an actress about to audition for a musical.
But as I knelt in the pew, one close to the altar reserved for people who were part of the program, I actually prayed to Lisa to help me be still. Isn’t that crazy? Praying to one of my best friends, as if I couldn’t just call her and ask her for a favor?
2011, La Costa Resort
Yes, it is crazy. Unless that second part is true.
Anyway, it worked. At the appointed time, I got up, walked around the side of the church to avoid the casket that contained her body, shuffled my wrinkled papers under the microphone, and apologized in advance for not being brief, because in writing the eulogy, I had found brevity impossible. Besides, there was no orchestra to play me off, no timer, no commercial break. This was the end.
The ladies had driven up from San Diego and flown in from Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey. We hadn’t been gathered together in many years, so many that I kind of can’t remember. But we fell into each others’ arms in tears on this unbelievable occasion. This should have been her wedding, we said.
As Suzanne and I settled down for the night, I’m sure we remarked about how odd it was that we were going to sleep where Lisa died. I am comforted now, as I am sure I was then, that she didn’t seem any more fazed by the circumstance than I was. “Whatever,” we must have said. “Someone washed the sheets.”
I wanted her to come to us. I wanted her ghost, or her spirit, or a cold patch of air, or a falling lamp. I would have vomited or shit my pants if that happened, maybe, but I wanted it so hard.
That one time, at Michigan State (1992). Not sure how we managed to arrange ourselves in the same position in photos for over 20 years. I’m sure that was a coincidence.
The other night I was explaining the “move a body” friend to my husband. He had never heard the concept before. We were in the midst of a jovial catching-up conversation, updating each other about the past week because he had taken our boys to visit his mother. To illustrate my point I said, “A move-a-body friend. You know, like Lisa.”
He knew. And he stayed quiet for a few moments as my voice caught. It took a little while for me to choke back the almost-sobs and get back to the story I was telling. Missing her still takes me by surprise sometimes. I don’t need anyone to help me move a body, right now, but I need her. In general.
The morning after I slept in the space where Lisa died, I didn’t recall any kind of visitation or haunting. I didn’t feel weird about sleeping in that spot. I didn’t sleep much, though. Suzanne (I apologize for telling this to the world) snored like a lawnmower, and I hadn’t brought my earplugs. I was also getting over that flu.
So no, Lisa wasn’t there. She isn’t anywhere, but she is everywhere for us, the people who loved her. And for all the children she saved who are growing up now because of her, and their families, and everyone they touch. They’ll never know it, probably, but we will, and that’s how her spirit visits us. My friend Chris will be happy that I’m finding something positive to focus on with my sadness. That’s really the best I can hope for, right?