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Saturday, August 4, 2012

happy trails

So here we are.
Recently, I found myself at the memorial service of a great lady.  She was a writer, prolific and smart and funny, and her name was not Nora Ephron. It was Judy Freudberg.

When you get to a certain age, more and more friends and colleagues are taken far too soon. When they are taken, you find yourself at the ubiquitous memorial service. When you are at said memorial service, you see many familiar faces, people who have come in and out of your life. And as you greet them, you all say the same thing:
We can’t keep seeing each other this way. 
When you get to a certain age, there are no more reunions, only memorial services. You are happy to see these people, but sick about the reason. And you realize that all of these dear people who surround you will also someday be gone. Then there will be another memorial service where everybody says:
My God, the last time I saw him/her was at so-and-so’s memorial service.
When you get to a certain age, you start to see a pattern emerge in memorial services. You know that when you walk into the memorial service, you will be sad but serene; in other words, you will be okay. Then you will realize after the second or third speaker that there was so much about this person you never knew at all. Then someone will get up and start to sing a song that seems totally innocuous, like Happy Trails. Everyone will be asked to join in. That is when, suddenly and shockingly, you are no longer okay. You whisper the lyrics because for some reason you can’t produce actual sound. You miss everything the next speaker says, because all you can think is, since when is “Happy Trails” the saddest song ever written? Then, as you dab at your eyes, you realize that you are not only mourning the loss of the person you knew, but also this other, completely unknown-to-you person that you really wish you had known. And afterward, everyone always says:
I never knew that about him/her. 
When you get to a certain age, you think about what your own memorial service might be like. You wonder who will come. You wonder if people will be there for you, or for the food, or for the networking opportunities. You wonder if people will come even if it’s raining or snowing. You wonder if what everybody always says at memorial services is true:
I’m sure he/she is looking down on us now. 
When you get to a certain age, you think you’ve heard everything. All of the jokes seem to have been told. All of the songs seem to have already been written. But once in a while, you hear something you missed, and it gives you hope that there are still surprises in store for however much life you may have left in you.
Judy once wrote a punchline I had never heard before, until it was recounted at her memorial service. It was so funny that it made me sad, because if it had been uttered on primetime TV, it would have become a classic. Instead, it was uttered by Oscar the Grouch and probably only aired once or twice. The setup: when Oscar’s beloved pet worm Slimey wound up in a full body cast after skydiving, Oscar asked the doctor if Slimey would be okay.  After the doctor assured him that Slimey would be fine as long as he didn’t jump out of any more planes, Oscar replied:
Just fix him, Doc... don’t tell him how to live his life.
When you get to a certain age and when you’ve gone to enough memorial services, you realize that you are lucky if an innocuous song like Happy Trails can make you cry. It means you crossed paths with someone truly wonderful.
It also means you weren’t just there for the food.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.

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