On Saturday, I spoke at the funeral of one of my dearest friends in the world. The kind you can’t imagine living without. Ever. And yet…
I’m Stacey Erickson. I’m Number 5.
If you don’t know me, I’m full of spectacular advice. And if I love you, I’ll give you an assignment as quick as look at you. But the real truth is I only know about three things. And for one of those things, the jury is still out. I’m going to talk about one of the two things I’m sure of, and then I’m going to talk about the other one.
The first one is this. Miracles happen.
When tragedy happens, we obsess over every little thing that we believe could have changed the outcome “If we had just turned left, if we had just left five minutes earlier, if the door had been locked, if they had just installed a detector, if only the pool had been covered, if I had only called, if I had only known he felt so desperate, if the ambulance had gotten there five minutes sooner.”
Exactly 100% of the time, there’s no way to work out all the variables, but we feel like the tragic could have been derailed at any time. And somehow it wasn’t. It happened anyway.
In miracles, the same thing is also true. Sometimes the setup is equally long, complicated, highly unlikely, obstacle-filled, and really is just so layered and convoluted that the miraculous almost didn’t happen at all. But, thank God, Jill Conner Browne, and The Doctor, this time it did.
Please feel free to call them whatever makes sense to you, but I believe they’re miracles. Because really, what is the likelihood of all these things occurring?
- one set of amazing parents raises a funny daughter with a smart mouth and a penchant for bossiness (You think I’m talking about Lauren, but I mean Jill.)
- this woman writes a southern-belle-gone-all-modern-and-smartass book, and invites us all to come under her bossy tutelage
- the book is published in 1999 at a time when the technology exists for people all over the world to talk to one another electronically
- a message board using said technology is created for fans of the book to be able to chat with one another
- we all meet each other on said message board
- out of the thousands having hilarious electronic conversations there, the natural winnowing process of finding kindred spirits happens and we end up with some of the closest friends of our lives
- we become especially close with just a few women, IN FIVE DIFFERENT STATES.
- we all make the effort to love one another wildly (because we can’t do it perfectly) and end up with a true tribe (including the matching and dreaded Tribal Tattoo)
- we become an iron-clad group of people who would literally walk into fire for one another
And any one of these events – and hundreds of others we don’t even know about – could have been derailed at any time. And somehow they weren’t. It happened anyway!
And that is how, after both Lauren and I made unfortunate decisions in the husband-choosing department, she became my wife. We both wanted to ensure we made one awesome marital selection apiece.
My wife was brilliant, smart, monumentally awake, funnier than you, and one of the very best, wisest people I have ever known. Lauren is irreplaceable. Forever, until the very end of time and the edge of existence, until everything winks off and we all become one again, there will never be another Lauren Popeil Norman. Lauren was the wife who loved me beyond any logical or sensible reason, for who I am today, and for who I aspire to be. If you haven’t had a Lauren believe in you and everything you’re capable of, you have missed a RARE thing. Through Lauren’s eyes, and because she was never once scared to tell me how she feels about me, I am able to see myself differently. I know myself better because Lauren loves me. I like myself more because Lauren KNOWS me and told me about myself on the regular. THAT. LASTS.
Because she was here, she changed the course of history. She changed the course of my history.
Really, how does someone who is smarter than me, more talented than me, and funnier than me STILL make me feel like the most popular girl in school?
Which brings me to the second thing I’m sure of: Everyone is irreplaceable. So, now is the time for us to pay very close attention to all the moments we get. Every single one of them can count.
Now is the time to take the garbage out to the curb and leave it there. Get the baggage down from the overhead bin – regardless if it’s packed neatly in a cute bag or in a wet box held together with duct tape – and assess whether any of it is worth dragging around for the rest of our lives. Jettison the baggage that’s slowing you down. Sure, it’s familiar and it tells a familiar story, but we’ll run so much faster without it.
Say, out loud, what you value about people and do it often. Let’s forgive each other quicker. Let’s love each other so much more than we deserve. Because we’re all irreplaceable.
Anne Lamott wrote, “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
I love you. That is all.