Sunday, May 11, 2008
A most beautiful Spring Day
(photo courtesy of Dasja Dolan**)
In what can only be described as one of the most perfect weather days I can remember at Golden Gate Park, over 200 friends and family gathered to celebrate Debra in the way she deserved to be honored. Debra had told a few people what she wanted and even left some instructions in her Will. Her dear friend, soul brother and fellow Aquarian Kile Ozier was to "produce" it. With the help of others, Kile gave Debra a send off, replete with all things Debra...including her beloved giftbags. What well planned, San Francisco event would be complete without giftbags? And event it was.
Upon arrival that morning several of us gathered at the Entrance to the National AIDS Memorial Grove
waiting for other friends and family to arrive for the planting of the Japanese Maple. As we were waiting a very large pack of bicyclist rode by, all telling us they were training for the AIDS ride. A wonderful introduction to the day ahead.
After everyone arrived we headed into the Grove. As we rounded the corner and topped the hill we were welcomed by a sea of purple and with all that purple you couldn't help but feel Debra's presence. Filled with blooming Echium as well as purple cloaked tables for the reception, the Meadow seemed to be an open invitation to celebrate Debra's life.
Prior to the actual service many of us gathered to see a Japanese Maple be planted in her memory. Those who were brave and goat-like traversed the hill to place mementos or ashes near the root ball before it was completely covered. Much to many peoples amazement, Debra's nearly 80 year old mother made that trek up the hill. I wasn't surprised since Mimi has been a very self sufficient woman as long as I've known her! After placing some ashes in the root ball Brenda grabbed a handful for us to take somewhere else in the Grove.
As others finished planting the tree Brenda, Sofie and I trekked off to find a place for some of the ashes. Much to our surprise we ended up at the boulder that had been placed in honor of Macy's Passport 25th anniversary(a project Debra worked on for several years.) Brenda and I knew that's where we needed to sprinkle those ashes...so we each sprinkled a bit over and around that boulder then rejoined the tree planting celebration.
With over an hour to go before the memorial started Sofie was already getting restless...and hungry...she demanded bacon! To our rescue was Susan and Jean who graciously offered to drive us over to an area in search of bacon. As we were walking out of the Grove, we ran into Rosie and her mom Nancy heading in. Rosie joined our trip to find food and Nancy joined the others gathering before the celebration.
After a successful breakfast run on Irving(I think), we made our way back to meet and greet for the memorial. Upon our arrival, Nancy made it clear that Rosie was there to be Sofie's person and to watch her so I could mingle and concentrate on chatting with all the folks I needed to connect with. That was probably the best arrangement made and little did I know just how handy Rosalie would be throughout the day. As I was walking in the first person I spotted was Virgo pal whose full name is three streets in San Francisco. It had been so long since I saw him but we gave each other the biggest hug ever. He was chatting with 3 other people who I hugged in rapid succession. It was then I realized I would be a day filled with hugging. It was so nice to see so many familiar faces.
After chatting and making my way towards the circle where the memorial took place, the time had come for the true celebration part of the day. Sofie and I (intentionally) played a very small role in the service. We lit the candle that was sitting next to the beautiful flowers at the "altar" where folks would soon be giving their own impressions of what Debra meant to them. As we lit the candle, many members of the SF Gay Men's Chorus walked in singing a wonderful rendition of "Seasons of Love" from the Broadway Musical Rent. From that point on the service was a blur...a beautiful, funny, tear-filled, belly laughing, heart wrenching blur. About 10 minutes into the service, after a few people told stories about Debra, Sofie declared she had to leave. Bravo to my girl for taking care of her needs! Quietly she, Rosalie and Naomi(another 7 year old attending) fled the scene and went to the coolest.playground. EVER.
Many people who spoke thanked Debra for providing the lovely weather that day. As many of us felt, she certainly had something to do with the beauty of the day!! Most told funny stories that were weaved with tales of admiration, love, respect and most recently loss. The last person to speak left us with a few lines of a Sarah Maclachlan's "I Will Remember You." She sang in a beautiful voice, "I will remember you. Will you remember me? Don't let you life pass you by. Weep not for the memories. Weep not for the memories." I don't know about all of you, but there are definitely days where I still weep.
**Dasja Dolan, someone who had never met Debra, happened to be at Golden Gate park the morning of the memorial. Originally she wanted to take photos of plants in the park, fortunately for us she ended up taking many photos and has now offered to give the sale proceeds to the fund to buy the boulder to be placed in the Grove. What a truly kind and generous offer...and effect Debra had on everyone(even in the afterlife!!)