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 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!!)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bittersweet Mother's Day

Mother's Day came early for me. Sofie couldn't wait until Sunday to give me the gift and card she made in school. First the gift...a lovely bracelet made with colored beads. Before she even told me the significance of the beads I for me, purple for Debra and since she couldn't do too many red beads(her favorite color) she chose another The beads alternated all the way around until there were 3 red beads in a row. The red beads were to represent the child and the mom and since she is a two mom kid, she got to have an extra red bead...something she was proud to tell me! Then she gave me the card...a card that brought tears to my eyes when I saw the picture she drew on the front. She and I were standing there(me in my orange Crocs and she was in one orange and one red Croc...her signature.) All the animals: Boone, Gracie, Humphrey and the caterpillar that's in her butterfly habitat were surrounding us. Just above our heads were 3 hearts, one red, one purple and one orange. Flying just above those hearts was a beautiful white winged angel Debra. The note inside, "I love you because you are very sweet and nice to. You let have a hamster and trapline to. Love Sofie LLL Kent" She was so proud that she sounded trampoline out and spelled it correctly...although she didn't, but it was close! Ever since Debra died she's taken to writing her name with three L's in the middle. She says she has 5 names now. Sofie Luda Ludmilla Lamkin Kent. She insists that Luda and Ludmilla are different! She's at the very least consistent with her new signature.

Our weekend has been good so far. Mom came up Friday morning and picked Sofie from school and hanging out with her in the afternoon. When I called to let them know I was heading home from work, I asked mom what she was doing. "Coloring." was her answer. Cute, I thought, she and Sofie are coloring...actually that's not true. Sofie was playing downstairs and Mom was coloring!!

After arriving home we dashed out for dinner at Elmo's so Sofie would be energized for her soccer game. We had fun hanging out at the game with other families and watching the girls have fun on the field. After the game several of us headed to Locopops where I experienced my first ever bad Locopop experience! It was my bad...should have gone with my gut and known that the Rosemary in a Rosemary Pear locopop would overwhelm the pear. Bleech. I took one bite and in the trash it went. Well, one time in a multitude of visits is fine with me.

Saturday we did our Biscuitville thing...shocked I'm sure! Then headed to the park in Cary that Sofie loves. After meeting up with a friend and her daughters, she offered to keep and eye out on Sofie while Mom and I ran to Trader Joe's. Mom had never been and has been wanting to go. A quick trip to TJ's and we're back at the park where we stayed for 2 more hours!! The kids had fun, so it was worth it. Exhausted, tired and cranky we headed back home. I made dinner for the three of us and we watched Alvin and the Chipmunks...laughing out loud much of the movie.

Now I'm blogging and Sofie is playing in Webkinz World on her laptop. I'm tired so I'll wrap up this Mother's Day post...sad that Debra's not around but happy that Sofie honored her in my gift and card. A sweet child indeed. I'm a very lucky Mom.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Where to begin?

It's been awhile since I've had the time, interest or wherewithal to blog. I fully intended to write about our experiences in CA before, during and after Debra's memorial. I will someday, just not today.

Life has been full of learning, living and loving among many things. Sofie and I are fairly busy these days. Soccer practice on Wednesday nights with games either Friday night or Saturday morning. Last weekend we had two games...a rain make-up from a few weeks ago. I wasn't sure how Sofie would do with a team sport. Up until now she really hadn't been interested in playing anything. I have to say, she's kind of taken to it like a duck to water! She's playing in the Durham Girls Soccer League which, much to my surprise, is a non-competitive learning environment for girls ages 7-13. She was very fortunate to be assigned(with a little begging) to the team Wales that is full of girls she already knew.

Her team, comprised of 7-8 year old girls, has truly been a joy for both of us. I've met some great parents that I wouldn't otherwise have known and Sofie is learning about cooperation, sportsmanship and fundamentals of soccer. The goal is to have FUN while learning the basics of the sport. I have to admit I've learned too. I knew nothing about the sport before...other than it's called "football" in most other countries and many players would love to bend it like beckham!! Sofie is a joy to watch on the field. From the moments she's hanging on the goal when there's no action at her end while playing goalie to the moments she's hopping around like a frog on the field(during play!). Watching her self confidence grow each time she's on the field. Amazingly she's a great goalie stopping ball after ball when it's her turn to pay attention. After pep talks from Matt, her closest daddy figure, she really understood that it was okay to go for the ball. I'm really enjoying watching her blossom on and off the field. I hope she maintains an interest in the sport as I am loving being a mini-van driving soccer mom!!

Along with soccer, parenting and work I've been overtaken by the responsibilities of making sure Sofie is in the best environment for learning. As we all know, she's a funny, intelligent, loving kid. The days since returning from our trip to CA have been spent pondering, investigating, processing and talking many many hours to friends and professionals about the "right thing to do." When Sofie first started kindergarten, both Debra and I wanted her to be able to start pre-k as a 5 year old. She's on the younger end of students in her grade, she was born prematurely AND lived her first 20 months in a hospital/orphanage, she has a vision issue and we suspected ADHD. The ADHD has been diagnosed and she's doing much better in that realm. However we were unable to start her in pre-K, so there have been struggles...emotionally and academically.

My struggles have finally been resolved after much pondering, soul searching and sheer intuition/gut feelings. Sofie will be moving to another school and repeating 2nd grade next year. In my heart and soul I know it's the best thing for her. 2nd grade was pretty much a wash this year with Debra's illness and death. Sofie is just now back to the light, fun loving child she was before all the illness. The grieving she has done continues but in a much more subtle way. There are still repercussions of having lost a mother but all in all, she's doing great. She's even on board with switching schools. We've told her about doing 2nd grade again but haven't really harped on that too much. I'll have all summer to let that sink in. First I have to make a decision about which school I'm sending her to!

So as you can see, life is going on. We both miss Debra but we both honor her every day in some small way. We know she's present in our daily lives making sure that we tow the line, love each other and miss her less and less each day.