I met Lon online. I had no idea what she looked like or sounded like. All I knew was her quick wit, her sharp mind, and her kind heart. After a time, she made the effort to visit me and my partner in Canada. She, traveling with Jan, arrived in Niagara Falls and there we all were meeting each other for the first time enjoying each other’s company, laughing our heads off, talking about “tits”… the birds of course. Over those years when I refused to fly anywhere she made a point to visit in Canada and in New England, whenever she could. And always there was laughter and joy and good food and fun.
When she became ill some time ago now, her illness woke me up to the fragility of life. And the way she fought and dealt with it and simply shrugged her shoulders at the mention of it taught me deep life lessons about “accepting the things we cannot change, changing the things we can, and having the wisdom to know the difference.” She was my faithful friend and cheerleader no matter what was coming my way or hers. She understood me on a very deep level in a way not many people have ever known me. And for her, it seemed effortless, as easy as breathing in and out.
When I was ordained in 2007, Lon was already ill and had just had her major surgery. I shall never, ever forget walking into the church to find the most beautiful bouquet of flowers… a congratulations from my friends Lon and Jan on that most special day. Those flowers traveled everywhere I went that weekend. It was my way of having them with me, my special family, on that special weekend.
Over the years I did begin to fly again. And one of my great goals was to visit her and Jan in their home in Leicester. That dream came true for me in May 2008 when I was privileged to spend a couple of days with them there. Lon had not been feeling well for some time, but she made space to welcome me in her heart and in her world. It was an incredible effort but one she generously and happily extended to me. Last year I was only able to get to Leicester for the afternoon but we had a lovely lunch together. And those moments are ever so precious to me now.
When I received the news of her transition from this realm to another I wept bitterly, not because I was naïve and didn’t know how seriously she was ill, not because I’d left something unsaid, not because I feared for her. I wept because I’m selfish. I wanted to see her again and laugh. And see her eyes disappear as her whole face turned into that unmistakable laugh.
And somehow I keep hearing a whisper of a poem attributed to Mary Frye.
“Do not stand at
my grave and forever weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and forever cry.
I am not there. I did not die."
Lon Coley will always be alive in my heart. She taught me to laugh when I had forgotten, she taught me to live as she was fighting to live, she taught me to love by loving me in her special way. Lon is alive in my life. And every time I laugh, I think of her.
Rest well dear friend. Thank you for everything.