“I don’t really know where to begin so I will start at the beginning.
I met Lisa for the very first time late in my junior year and her senior year at a party where we watched the George Foreman / Evander Holyfield championship fight. To this day I can still picture her sitting there demurely on the couch smiling and laughing. We spoke only very briefly that night and I learned she had transferred to F&M the year before and was about to graduate. We ran in completely different social circles and had never crossed paths prior to that evening and did not see each other again that year, although to be fair I was keeping an eye out for her. I remember regretting that I wouldn’t get a chance to get to know her better but chalked it up to ships passing in the night and circumstances.
Six months later on Halloween night 1991, my two roommates and I made a spur of the moment decision to attend a costume party. The people in the audience of a certain age will appreciate this next part. We cleverly decided to attend as a visual representation of the acclaimed hit single from the band naughty by nature “you down with OPP?”. I was the “O” and they were the two “P”s. Classy and hilarious right? I was dress in a ratty old inside-out tank top with a crude O drawn on it in marker and the only other thing I was wearing was what only can be described as a rather ill-fitting diaper made from an old t-shirt.
Fully decked out in this attire, I stumbled around a corner and ran into Lisa again. She had also decided to attend the party at the last minute. It felt like somehow fate was involved. To my delight she had taken a year off to apply to grad schools and was working in Lancaster. We began chatting and a week later I asked her out. You might be tempted to question her judgment in saying yes (special note to Paige…..please ignore mom’s example and for God’s sake stay away from guys like that at frat parties) but she did indeed say yes.
For all these years I have chosen to interpret it as evidence of her excellent taste and sense of humor as well as ability to overlook or at least deal with certain glaring red flags. Four years later I asked her to marry me and in 1997, on the grounds of F&M campus where we first met, we got married.
Lisa was my first real adult relationship. She the first person I seriously dated and was the first and only REAL romantic love of my life. We have been a team and partners for the last 23 years and built a wonderful family. Despite the ups and downs and the heartache we had a great life together. I can’t believe she is gone and I’m not sure what we are going to do without her. I have struggled mightily for the last week to come up with the right words to capture and celebrate her life. She was fun, witty, intelligent and beautiful. She had an edge and a wicked sense of humor. She was a wonderful wife, a terrific mom and a great friend. The children were always her top priority and raising them was her life’s work. I look at them and see reflections of her years of tireless devotion and kind nurturing.
Distilling everything down is so very hard. What I think made her special and so loved was her compassion and empathy. From the very beginning of our relationship she was drawn to people who had experienced suffering or adversity in their lives. We always joked she should have been a physician or a therapist since she played one (unpaid I might add) in her daily life anyway. If you needed a friend she was there with advice or an offer to help or just a bowl of soup or a kind word. She was an extraordinary friend and even when things were extremely tough for her she was giving of herself to me, to our children and to her friends who she held dear.
I believe the story that really captured the essence of what Lisa was all about was the birth of our youngest Tristan. I had been through the whole childbirth thing twice before so was feeling confident that I was an old pro and would get through it OK. However, my confidence proved unwarranted.
About 40 minutes into the delivery when things were getting pretty intense the doctor looked up at me and said “I don’t like the look of dad…get somebody in here quickly.” At that point I was pale and sweaty and on the precipice of losing consciousness which had also nearly happened during Paige’s birth. The OBGYN and a swarm of nurses began tending to me, got me a chair and began rubbing my shoulders and sponging my brow and altogether ignoring Lisa who was giving birth right next to us.
I would have thought she would have been justifiably annoyed with me. However, that wasn’t her. Right at that moment, probably five minutes before Tristan was born, Lisa was reaching out to me, stroking my hair and comforting me and telling me it was ok and all with a smile, a laugh and an attitude of amusement and appreciation for the absurdity of the situation.
That was her nature….she gave of herself to others: Her time, her friendship, her love, her good humor and her intellect and ability and she did it with the same intensity, effort and sincerity when things were difficult for her as when they were good.
When she got sick she transferred that same passion to her writing and her blogging. At first she just wrote as a therapeutic exercise and a vehicle to explore her feelings and experiences. Gradually, people all over the country and really the world, person by person and totally by word of mouth discovered her writing and responded to it.
Over the course of the last six years she built a passionate following and circle of friends. She felt that it was her responsibility to help educate and demystify what it meant to be a young mom and have breast cancer and later what it meant to be a young mom and have metastatic breast cancer. She also wrote beautifully on the themes of grief, loss and family.
I have heard from dozens of men and women who followed Lisa on the web and on twitter. Her writing was clear, concise and heartfelt. But what I think people responded to most was that she cared for the individual. If you emailed her she would write back. If you called she would speak to you for hours. She would answer questions in online forums on the internet until late at night. She genuinely cared about those who reached out to her and wanted to help. It is no surprise to me then that the community of her friends and readers has been there for her when she needed help the most and for that we are thankful. For Lisa it all came back to her loved ones and especially the family.
Things got very tough for her in the last week of her life. When she was able to speak she spoke of how sad she was to leave but also of how proud she was of the kids. Tristan, Paige and Colin, she loved you completely and her very last words to me were of how lucky she was to have been your mother and how her only regret was she wouldn’t get to enjoy seeing you guys finish growing up. She knew though that you were going to be great.
I had a sweet moment when Paige and I were going through her things. Two boxes appeared at our door the Tuesday after she died. We opened them and inside were presents for Tristan’s 9th birthday….I checked her Amazon account….she had ordered them Wednesday evening when she knew things were very getting serious. One of her very last conscious acts was as a mom thinking of her youngest. She took a few of her precious remaining minutes to make sure that Tristan had something nice on his birthday.
That was just who she was. She gave of herself to those she loved and the world is a better place for her having been in it if only for a short time.……that is the only epitaph worth having and Lisa’s is a life that is worth remembering, celebrating and honoring. We shall miss her very much. Thank you all for joining us today.”