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Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Cynthia died yesterday.

My beloved friend, inspirational colleague, seeker of truths. Hungry, rockin' out, haunted, laughing, brilliant... absolutely brilliant Cynthia.

Cynthia who always hung up the phone laughing. Usually at the absurdity of it all. Usually seeing the acute futility and absolute humor permeating any and every situation.

Cynthia whose liver was compromised during a random walk through Oakland one night a couple of decades ago, walking with her 20-something friends, deciding to get a tattoo at a non-descript parlor. A rose on her wrist to match her favorite top. Yeah, there was something funny about the guy at the front desk. A yellow pallor to his face. But they were young, and who would think. Who would think... who would think...

Cynthia who went through hell on earth the past two years, battling insurance companies and waiting on transplant lists and moving in and out of hospitals several times a month. Losing her apartment to bills that were unable to be paid due to the stalls and snags of the bureaucracy.

Cynthia, whose friends rallied around her spiritually and physically, surrounding her with love and the highest intentionality, willing her back from the brink over and over and over.

Cynthia, who finally got her much needed and much overdue liver transplant... but whose body was, at that point, so compromised, so wracked, so tired, that it didn't ever quite take. Whose body gave up: exactly one day after the health care system that put her through this horrific journey, was finally... finally overhauled.

Cynthia, whose voice we will never hear again.

She has already taught me lessons.

Like, to never postpone doing the right thing. Sometime last week I awoke in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep, riddled with anxiety about my cherished and beleaguered opera company. And while I lay there, I suddenly decided to pay her a visit. So I knocked on her spiritual door and said hey. The veil is thin. Why shouldn't we commingle our souls for awhile, take a break from it all, go for a fly-by to the beach, or the mountains, or wherever we want to go. And while we walk together, let's have a long conversation. Let's talk of movies and music, literature and love, sassiness and sex. Let's hang out, you and I... I said to her. It's been way too long.

So we did. And it was lovely. And when I heard last week that her devoted friends up north were collecting and taping voices to surround her with, I thought, gee, I should tell her about this vision I had about us. It would be cool, and she'd hear my voice, and maybe I'd play "Get the Party Started" by Pink because she always loved that song, and it'd be cool. And the technology was available to do it easily. And... I put it off. I was traveling... I was busy... I'd do it from Seattle, I told myself. I'd do it when my work was done. And I never did. And now I know: you never put off doing the right thing. Because you don't always have that time. You really don't.

And she taught me, again, how precious are our physical beings. As valiant and stubborn and brave and feisty and willing as Cynthia was, the body could not withstand the assault. So today I started exercising again. And drinking water. And taking better care, remembering that no one is immortal. No body lasts forever. And the sadness we leave in our wake is deep and vast and lingering.

Cynthia was my guardian angel for my book. She worked with me on all parts of it, the structure, the title, the deep underpinnings, the marketing, the vision. She made it sing, made it coalesce, made it sparkle. It was a project that we both loved, and she shepherded it into the world with as much care as if it had been her own.

And on the day we launched the project, in a little room off from the stage where I was to give my first reading, she gave me a refrigerator magnet that completely embodies who she was... who she is... and who she always will be for me:
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the sky...

-Jack Kerouac

I'd say rest in peace, my dear dear friend, but I don't mean that. I want you to fly, to sing, to rock the world as you make your transition. I want you to get that party started, once and for all. I want lots of postcards on your way out. And I want you to burst into the heavens like fireworks and sparklers, roman candles and the 1812 Overture. I want you to explode with joy at the release from your tired body, dance on your grave, laugh at the absurdity of it all. Hang up the call laughing, beloved fabulous friend. We will meet up again next time the veil is thin.

# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 8:04 PM 5 comments


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