When I moved to Decatur in 2008, you were my first friend and quickly became my best one. We had both just moved to the Winnona Park neighborhood, didn’t know anyone and were trying to find our group. So our group started with each other.
From the beginning, you were trying to get me to come visit your church, but I resisted for years because I was afraid that if I went and didn’t like it, I might offend you. (LOL. The hardest person to offend on the planet.) But I valued your opinion much more than my own. Still do. Eventually, of course, you won out. I went, loved it and quickly joined your church.
Over the years, you showed your loyalty to me again and again. If someone slighted me, you noticed it immediately, and, once we were alone, you obliterated the negativity as weird or stupid or lame. And you made me laugh about it, like there was nothing in the world that could come against me. You spoke back to my own doubts about myself with equal wit and made me believe in myself because you believed in me.
You proved that you believed in me over and over by showing up for all the big things that meant something to me. And if you couldn’t be there, you always let me know that you wanted to come but couldn’t. Whether it was John’s funeral when you had literally just gotten out of the hospital with sepsis or my performance at Eddie’s Attic a few weeks ago.
You actually read my blog, which no one in my own family has done, and told me how great it was. You reviewed my application to seminary and gave me feedback, telling me that if anyone could push thinking on God forward, it was me. Me, a person with a blog with 5 readers. You texted me after every Auburn basketball game in the NCAA tournament to tell me how Auburn was so good and, later, how they were cheated, and it was unfair. Because you knew it was important to me. Something as silly as basketball! You cared about it, because I did. You even told me I was a good cook when I brought you some broccoli cheese soup and chicken with cream of mushroom this winter….something no one ever said or will ever say again. God, you knew how to love me.
You threw me at least 4 birthday parties I can remember, the most recent one being a lunch with just the 2 of us this past February. You never would let me throw one for you. Not in the 11 years we were friends. Finally, this year you let me plan one, but your health prevented us from having it, and in true Genia fashion, you left this world having birthday-ed me to death and never letting me return the favor. Because that’s who you were: all give and no take.
Having lost in the past year the two people who were the center of my life for so many years, I don’t know what the landscape holds for me now. I am set adrift. I am only able to stand because of that conversation we had in February. “I’ve had a good life,” you said. “I am not worried about death because of my faith.” I agreed with you, not really knowing to what I was agreeing. Because I am fine with my death, but I am not fine with yours. You were my person. You were so many people’s person.
One friend mentioned today that thinking about your life and legacy makes her feel as if she needs to live her life better, do better, be better. But I don’t think that’s what I will take from you, Genia, even though you were undoubtedly the most charitable person I’ve ever met, an environmentalist, a social justice activist. What I will take from you is a small little light that you placed in my heart, that you tended and nurtured for years, that little light you stoked every time that you told me that I was worth something to you and the world, that I was important and smart and funny and a good friend.
How can we go forward when we lose people who love us better than we love ourselves? We can become the keepers of the light that they brought to us. We can tend it with their voices in our ears. “You are enough. My love was not wasted on you.” I will listen, so I can become the person you believed I am. That is your legacy to me.
Until we meet again and dance like crazy women. xxoo