Sara’s Day- The Book

At some point I will post my reflections and pictures from the day, for now here is the printed eulogies that were given to those who could make it. It was an amazing day!

From Linda and Ember:
We are gathered here with love and open hearts to celebrate Sara’s life. It’s been a wild ride since that devastating phone call on July 25th that threw all of us who love Sara into a tailspin.

It became clear quite early on that there was no way that we could stand up before you and speak of the loss of Sara. “What can not be said will be wept.” There’s been a lot of tears. So we decided to take a page from Sara’s own playbook. She was all about the written word and pictures. Although we still don’t have access to her computer, she left us many journals and photos as well as drawings and so, like curators of a museum, we have compiled for you some of what Sara has left us. We have added our own words to be held on these pages to give tribute to a most amazing life. Music brought her great joy- she went to sooo many live concerts and we are incredibly grateful for the musicians gifting us with their talents on this day to provide the space to grieve / celebrate, we know that Sara would approve. Also a huge thank you to Gwyn and Jonathan Weisberg who offered this little bit of heaven to have this celebration. Sara appreciated and loved this place very much.

Sara was raised in a household that embraced all religions as valid but thought that the Eastern philosophies made the most sense. We believe that our souls are sparks of the divine and that we have many incarnations to learn lessons to one day reunite with the Divine Source. Be assured that we did many ceremonies to help Sara’s soul to the other side. We have been to enough memorials where some well meaning individual used the event as a platform to preach about their personal religious beliefs much to Sara’s dismay. In light of Sara’s wishes we are not providing that opportunity on this day.

We have a Sara buffet which is filled with the foods that Sara ate on a daily basis. Note that she was lactose intolerant and used very small plates to hold her food so as to keep her portions the size of a tiny bird.
We will have a Sara trivia game, the winner(s) of which can have first dibs at the Sara give-a-way table, stuff that we thought was kinda cool that people might want. We will donate what is left after the day is over.

Sara left us in the dark about a lot of things, her password to her computer being one of them. Her password hint to herself was “service ascending” . We will give a hundred dollars to anyone who guesses the password -that would help us out incredibly.

From Linda:
I was there at the beginning. She was in no hurry to be born; she crawled into some nook in my body and refused to come out until scalpels were used. When I held her in my arms and looked at her for the first time the thought that sprang to my mind unbidden was,” she’s going to break a lot of hearts”. I think that premonition has come true. My job was to keep her safe as she grew through childhood. She was a very calm baby and toddler, almost ethereal with her flaxen hair. I called her my little angel. She craved physical contact. We called her “snuggle bug” or “the cuddle monster.” But she was not an overly demonstrative child, she didn’t smile much and at times would stare at you as if questioning your motives and life decisions which could be a little unnerving.

I had my first inkling of the tremendous intelligence behind those baby blue eyes when she put together a hundred piece puzzle all by herself out of the box at the age of three. It took her less than an hour.

She was never taught to read, she figured that out for herself. She occupied herself with reading and writing. When she was in 3rd grade she wrote a many page story about the orphanage that she was going to have, complete with floor plans. Not just any orphanage, a Tibetan Orphanage.

Time always goes fast in retrospect. Before we knew it she was13 years old complaining that she “never went anywhere”. Her Dad mentioned he had a friend who was sending his daughter to a French immersion school (in France). Did she want to go? Dumb question.
That was the beginning of many farewells at airports.

That first trip didn’t satisfy her wanderlust- it stoked it. After her first year in college she announced that she wanted to go to Thailand to get a credential to teach English as a second language and then to China and then Tibet. Dennis understood her need to travel, and encouraged her. I worried. I knew she had great love and respect for me and she tried to address all of my concerns. But she also made it clear that she was in charge of her own destiny and she had her own idea of how to live her life.

After that first big trip to Southeast Asia she never seemed to be in the States for very long. There was always the next adventure calling. I came to realize that Sara had chosen an unconventional way to live and worrying about her wasn’t going to change that. I came to describe her as “predictably unpredictable”. I decided that her totem animal was a hybrid of four- a squirrely, mermaid, unicorn, turtle. When I told her this she was very curious as to my reasoning so I told her, “squirrel because you’re always darting hither and yon, mermaid because you are an emotional creature and water is the element of emotion, unicorn because there is no one like you, and turtle because you have a tendency to withdraw into your shell if you don’t want to engage” She thought about it for a moment and then nodded her head and said, “Yep that’s about right”.

When she was in the country she would do anything for me. I could list all that she has done, all the love that she demonstrated for me but it would take pages and I prefer to keep those memories close to my heart.

I will say that she was extremely complex and enigmatic. Ember and I only half kidded that she was actually a CIA agent and all the travel was just a cover for her spy stuff.

Sara was convinced that she had the DRD4-7R gene otherwise known as the wanderlust gene. This gene impacts the dopamine levels and affects tolerance for risk taking. I believe that is the only explanation for my little angel to have grown up into such a fearless badass. And why someone with such brilliant intelligence would make such a huge miscalculation that would end her life so suddenly.

Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Bob Marley, Lord Byron and Sara all died at the age of 36. So many bright lights extinguished so soon.

While she traveled the world she touched so many, she was passionate about chronicling life on this planet, she was an environmentalist and desperately wanted to make a difference to help the earth which she held as sacred. She saw her journalism students as her kids and hoped to mentor them so that they too would make a difference.

She taught me so much like- it never hurts to ask, to be brave and to go out of my comfort zone. And life is valued most by those who have the guts to grab it by the balls. I miss her. Terribly.

From Ember:
Little one,
I have written a metric butt load of words about you, but it seemed fitting in this context to write a letter to you. First the perfunctory angst, it has been easier to be angry about some of your final choices in the months before your spectacular exit. Especially the ones you made that night, but I know this was just a thin veil of protection from the vast existential pain of my lack of corporeal access to you.

I wanted more.

More late nights eating cereal and toast, catching up on our respective daily events. More time to annoy you about the size of your cranium. More of anything other than this void left in the wake of your parting from me. I will spend the rest of my life missing you. However, I’m so incredibly glad for the time we had. For the dozens of notes, cards, posts and journals we shared with one another where we stated in no uncertain terms how well we loved one another. I’m glad we talked about it so much. I have hundreds of memories that leave no doubts about the depth of our connection. A connection that is still just as tangible now as ever.

Our whole lives we argued consistently about two things; who got to die first, and if there was a situation that would nullify our sisterhood. We both realized that one of us would likely have to spend time earth-side without the other, and that this configuration was going to be worse for the one left living. We debated this inevitable situation early and often. My argument being that I already had to spend three years without you and so it was simply your turn, and in addition that would be the proper chronological order of things. You would disagree with me silently, with a look in your eye I never cared for. It would seem that the joke is on me after all.

Mark one for you.

I won the later argument however, as it seems that even separated by death, we are still sisters. Possibly the best sisters ever, if I do say so myself. I guess we can tally the final score as tied, and I’m ok with that. I don’t have much of a choice, I never really did when it came to you. Loving you was, and still is, a constant practice of letting you go and this is no different. Well, it’s a little different. I will celebrate your spirit, one that was beholden to no one and nothing. Not even me. I can’t say I wasn’t warned. I can say that losing you will define the rest of my life.

I wanted more, but want and need are very different things. I have what I need from you; unconditional love. It is easy to feel like I shouldn’t have to do this, but that sentiment does disservice to my reality. True suffering is not in the endurance of hardship, but in clinging to what can never be, rather than seeing that even this can serve the awakening of my heart. I can choose to let your absence deepen my love for the nature of this impairment world. Stephen King expresses this beautifully in the passage from Shawshank Redemption:

“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure. I guess I just miss my friend.”

If one word could ever be vast enough to encapsulate your essence I think it would have to be “traveler” and death does not change that. Your exit has taught me many things, the most salient might be that death changes everything except what is most important.

I love you Little One journey well, until we meet again.

P.s. you had a big head.

From Max:
That was how I opened the last conversation we had, as I had opened many before. Of course it was our usual check-in with each other, the normal “hows life, what’s new”. I was on my way to the airport for a job interview in Wisconsin. We talked about life and her current adventure in the DR, gossiped about friends, reminisced about past adventures together. We made plans for her to visit our new place in Wisconsin when she got back, so she could see the place and meet my kiddo. Though we never saw each other physically very recently we spoke often on the phone. Even if it had been months since catching up it always felt like no time had passed and we remained close throughout the years.

I have so many memories of her that it is hard to pin down any single one to share. From the nights of youthful over indulgence where we would stay up all night talking, laughing and crying together; to climbing the mausoleums in the graveyard to watch the sunrise; the time i smashed my hand with a rock and we played cards for a few hours while my hand was bleeding profusely until she told me “it’s time to go to the hospital”; the time I visited Santa Cruz in the middle of the night and she and her father rolled me some road joints and drew a route in my atlas of the “scenic route”-one i take to this day.

My favorite memory of Sara is a strange one and rather mundane. We had been out all night as a de facto going away party for me as I was leaving for Russia the next day. We’d been drinking heavily the night before and a friend dropped me off at my house. I was supposed to be picked up the next morning by someone else, but when they were 30 minutes late I called them and they told me tough shit, they were too hung over to take me. In a panic I called Sara, who groggily picked up the phone, I explained the situation and she just sighed, “I’ll be there in a minute”. Within a few minutes she was there with her little beater-of-a-car and she drove me, both of us hungover as shit, to the airport where I barely made my flight out of the country. She didn’t complain about it, we didn’t even talk much during the drive, she just smiled, gave me a hug, and said she’d see me when i got back.

This is a simple story, I know, but I think it captures the sort of person she was. A wise person, and one of Sara’s former housemates, once said, “You’ll know who your real friends are by who will pick you up when all your plans go to shit”. Sara was always that person who was selfless in helping those she loved. She would do anything for her friends, and though she wasn’t always within reach, she was never truly out of touch.

The last time I saw her was a strange circumstance as well. It was a few days after her death when she visited me in my dreams. I was in a dark dimly lit bar area, similar to a bar room you would find in a speakeasy or a movie from the 1950’s.

I was told to wait, as someone would be arriving shortly for me.
Then there she was, her long blond hair and infectious smile as the candlelight danced off her face.
“This can’t be,” I said. “You died.”
She rolled her eyes at me, “sure, Lyon, I was actually inducted into the CIA and they had to fake my death as part of the initiation” she said sarcastically.
Our eyes met and I knew what had happened.
“Then why are you here,” I asked
“Just have to make the rounds,” she said, “I don’t have a lot of time.“
We both ordered brown liquor and talked about life, love, and everything that had happened in our lives. When we finished our drinks we embraced.
“Do you have to go?” I asked, “we could always get another round”
“I have a lot of people to see and I won’t be able to do this very often,” she replied. “I’ll see you again, but it might be a while til the next time”

We embraced one last time then I woke up with the feeling that that was our goodbye. Sara was one of the few truly good people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. It was truly a pleasure being her friend and I look forward to the next time we can see each other and talk as if no time has passed.

From Che:
I’d tell you how I first met Sara, but neither of us could ever remember exactly how and when we met. You see it was in college and booze was involved. I know that might come as a big surprise, a shock really. As befits the American college experience those days were wild, full of dodging RA’s, writing a recipe book on a roll of paper towels about new drink concoctions (I would not grace our creations with the epithet of cocktail, like most things the young enjoy they were sweet and awful), and whirlwind romances and friendships in the ever shifting sands of college age youth. In the quiet moments we shared a love for literature and quoted T.S. Elliot and Neruda to each other as we wandered under the Portland stars. It was only later when we returned to California that I experienced the more sturdy and staid Sara. Ok, at least the more sturdy and staid in comparison with the one I knew in college. I was overjoyed to hear that she’d be moving to my county and just 15 minutes down the road when Delbs
got word he’d be stationed in Bodega Bay, and there followed some wonderful years as we foraged our way into adulthood and responsibility while still dipping our toes into the wildness of our younger days.

It was during these years that Sara made the mistake of introducing me to her father, a strong friendship that endured until his death and always made Sara wildly uncomfortable. Something I always liked to poke at just to give her a hard time. Those years were easy, a transition from our education and into building a life. And then the Bodega tour ended and she moved on. Later Sara’s visits to the ranch were always full of energy and drive, late night conversations about the yearning to effect positive change and to explore the wider world, experience new life ways and new worlds outside of the paradigms we knew. Hers was never a spirit to be bottled by society’s expectations or norms and she was not shy of letting you and the world know it. Sara’s actions were always the big ones, no half measures for her. We often joked of dying young as we looked at the years ahead, something wild and sharp and tragic so we never had to experience the slow creep of age and the disappointments the old know so well. We often joked but I never thought I’d write these words, never thought our jokes would come true.

Sara, you were a wonderful friend, a beautiful and willful soul and a wealth of stories and experience. Though I cry as I write these words, ours was a friendship bright and poignant that lit my life and brightened the lives of those around us. Like the bonfires you loved to light so much, you burned bright, hot, wild, and sadly out far too quickly.

I love you my friend.

From Joe:
You were here.

For a quick, complex, jumble of moments, you were here. For two days and thirty six years, the whole world was in one person; all of our miracles and our humanity: from dad jokes to Joan of Arc, it was all cased in one mind, one heart, and a bunch of borrowed (or more likely stolen) atoms.

You were here.

Because I can’t ask someone “How are you doing?” Without asking myself if I care to know the answer. Because I have to take off my sunglasses to meet a stranger and meet their eyes. Because I have to check my lunch rations for work in case they “mysteriously vanished”. Because when I am truly honest with myself and let go of a forced narrative, you are somehow always here. Because it’s my job now to embrace my own joy and adventure, but I wake up with little rashes next to the corner of my eyes,

You were here.

For two days and thirty six years, the world was in one beautiful, adventurous, squirrelly human. And now the world is reborn.
For better or worse, we are all for the squirrellier.
“Omnia mia mecum porto”
Wherever I go, I take you with me: All my love, always.
You were here and you are loved.

From Cristy:
You’re off on your next adventure! I wonder where you’re headed this time. I let you go, far away, eagerly listen to your stories. I greet you at either end, encourage you, provide an ear when it is needed.
Connection was intermittent, unexpected and always strong and full of love. So many seemingly mundane moments of connectedness and closeness. So much distance in space and time and continuing right where we left off. In our friendship you hit the high notes, tickled my arms with your hair, took whiskey shots over the phone around the world, always loved me.
You are due back any moment and whether or not you choose to share your stories, I will listen. You wouldn’t admit it, but people were drawn to your glow. So many wanted to sit in your warmth. You were a flame and I will carry your warmth in my heart.

From Lesly and Robert Mallory:
You Can
By Elizabeth Ammons

You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her,
or you can be full of the Love she shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she would want,
Smile,open your eyes,Love and go on

From Jeanette:
The Bohemian Babe, always a mischief, a delight a wonder… never known always a surprise.

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