Saturday, July 2, 2011

REMEMBERING: Linda Currier, a bright smile on some dark days

The quiet courage of a fellow cancer survivor who passed
COLUMBIA, 7/3/11  (Beat Byte) -- Linda Currier was remembered last week for a quality my wife and I observed when we would see her at Columbia's Ellis Fischel Cancer Center:  quiet courage, and an enduring smile that made some dark days not only bearable, but bright. 
Some of the most heartfelt eulogies I've ever heard were delivered at a standing-room-only Calvary Episcopal Church memorial service Thursday for Currier, a long-time Columbia resident, Grant PTA mom, and Calvary parishioner.

Her friends and family painted delicate and thoughtful portraits of not only Linda's life, but life itself, from little joys like shopping for those great bargains you never knew you needed, to grand highs, like the arrival of that new man in your life who finally makes it all work perfectly -- not just your loving husband, but your baby son -- and how you danced around in purest delight over having found -- in the ones you love -- such joyful parts of your soul and your self.
The memorial was another example of something I've seen at church many times, as people grow and change, get older and get sick, and ultimately, say their final goodbyes.  A bitter, sweet tide that washes over all of us, along the human shore. 
Linda was Green before Green was golden, her friends told us.  She could sew and bake like few others, and expressed her love, not only for today or tomorrow, but forever.  One friend's description of the way Linda not just engaged -- but wholeheartedly partnered -- with her daughter on violin, skating, and those other youthful pursuits that help make happy adults, was nearly priceless. 
It showed the abiding, daily side of love over the long haul we never hear enough about.

My family and I went to church with Linda, her husband, son, and daughter, and would often speak to her before and after services about kids and schools and the unfolding future.  She was a low-key optimist who -- as one of her family said at the memorial -- lived by the Serenity Prayer, with the courage to change the things she could, the serenity to accept the things she couldn't, and the wisdom to know the difference.
When my wife and I first saw Linda and her husband in the lobby at Ellis, around the time we were facing our diagnosis of an aggressive breast cancer, we couldn't believe it.  How could great people like them be facing cancer too -- we assumed, at first, in some other family member? 
But with a smile we would see for the next several months, Linda delivered the news that it was she who was facing the diagnosis (a different cancer, not breast cancer), and that "everything was going to be just fine."
Everything is going to be just fine.  I don't know how many times her words have echoed in my mind and heart over the past 18 months.  I went from asking myself, what does that mean -- just fine?  To deciding that "just fine" had more to do with courage, grace, and serenity than it did with the daily fact of living with cancer, even if living gradually subsides. 
"So we do not lose heart, So we are always confident," Linda's daughter reminded us from 2 Corinthians at the service. "Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day." 

We saw Linda and her family at Ellis many times over the following year and a half, and my wife would see her in the neighborhood and they would talk and walk.   Walking, friends told us at the memorial, was a tradition Linda had taken up years ago, rain or shine or darkest winter day, and continued at the urging of her husband, who saw it as a bedrock of her character and strength. 
My wife walked to and from chemotherapy many times, for much the same reason.  Serenity, and a dollop of peace on a difficult day.   
I saw Linda and her husband at Ellis when my wife was getting her chemotherapy port removed, a day we celebrated.  Linda didn't say anything then, but when she stood, she looked at me and smiled. 
Everything is going to be just fine.
"Some bright morning, when this life is o'er, I'll fly away," the whole church sang, with Linda's friends on fiddles and strings, that folksy hymn made famous in a celebration of life and all its ups and downs, the Coen brothers movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.  "I'll fly away, Oh Glory.  I'll fly away, in the morning.  When the shadows of this life have gone, I'll fly away."
Morning came for Linda Currier just a few weeks after we saw her at Ellis that last time.  But the brightness of morning she carried with her, not just as she took flight through the parted shadows, but as she had lived life all along. 

1 comment:

  1. beautifully written. like her friends who spoke at the uplifting service and remembrance -- thank you for putting the thoughts so many of us have into words we can hang onto to.