Below are words shared at Abby’s Unveiling Ceremony on April 30, 2017.
Words. Abby loved words. I’m told that when Abby was Miri’s age she was a little girl with big hair and big words. Words were the paintbrushes she used in her profession; the trails she cleared to make way for stories that would make a writer take notice enough to write an article and ultimately make a reader take action. As a public relations professional, Abby’s job was not to write a singular story, but to influence as many writers and journalists to tell her story. For Abby, words were a means to an end.
A year ago I couldn’t find the words or the strength to define Abby. Today I’m still at a loss. How can words strung together into sentences and paragraphs possibly contain or define this little girl with big hair and big words who grew up to become a loving daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend to so many? A lamplighter and a beam of light in this dark and broken world.
Fortunately for me, Abby, the patient and committed teacher she was, taught me that words are just one means to tell a story.
In fact, love and connection, were the real tools Abby wielded in her day to day. Love and connection was her purpose and meaning and Abby’s true gift to the world. And Abby was masterful at it.
Abby’s love and connection created beautiful friendships and unbreakable bonds. It wasn’t just the way Abby laughed that was so memorable, but how we felt when we were laughing with her. It wasn’t just how she would roll her eyes and say “totally” when she agreed with something you said, but how we felt when she validated something we had shared, no matter how trivial. It wasn’t what she would cook for a meal with friends, but the way she made it feel effortless and yet so meaningful.
Abby’s immense and deep seated love and connection also created dearly cherished memories. When you think about your best memories with Abby, I’ll bet they weren’t postcard memories about fancy trips or exotic places or checkmarks on a bucket list or any kind of memory that could be bought or easily manufactured. If your memories are like mine, they are much deeper – embellished and enveloped in love and connection.
Perhaps your memory was a moment of shared joy – the way she smiled when she opened the door for you or approached you for a hug; the way she would bite the tip of her tongue when she smiled in photos – a sure tale sign that a laugh was nearby. Perhaps your memory was a conversation; how she could listen and create a space for you to share something personal. How she would skip beyond ‘how are you?’ pleasantries and jump straight into where you left off in your last encounter – did you get a follow-up job interview? Is your baby finally sleeping through the night? Did your dad’s medical operation go smoothly? And when you left that conversation, remember how you felt? Loved. Supported. Validated. That you mattered. Because Abby believed in each of us and saw the brilliant light within everyone one of us. That radiant love and that authentic connection was something Abby shared generously, consistently and equally with each of us. It gave her tremendous meaning, and it meant something deep and rich to each of us.
The evening Abby passed, a woman in UWMC scrubs approached me. Her face was unfamiliar to me. Her eyes were red and her cheeks wet. It was apparent she had been crying too. Unable to hold back her tears, she told me how much she loved Abby. That her family had moved to Seattle a few years ago and her son was having a hard time adjusting. She told me that Abby was the only patient that ever asked her how she was doing and checked in on how things were going with her son. “I will miss her so much.” she said as she said good bye. As she hugged me, I searched for her name tag to remember which doctor or nurse Abby had built this unique connection with that I had somehow missed all this time. When I asked the floor receptionist who this person was and described the woman, the receptionist told me, “She’s not a doctor or nurse, she’s the floor janitor.” It seemed Abby had enough love and connection for everyone. Everyone mattered.
This year we’ve grieved the loss of Abby’s presence. We’ve grieved the loss of a friend, a mother, a wife, a sister and a daughter. The loss of a niece, a cousin, a daughter-in-law and a sister-in-law. The loss of a patient, a co-worker, a business owner, an athlete, a teacher, an artist, a writer, a designer and a storyteller. The loss of a visionary, a dreamer, a builder, a community organizer, a servant leader, and a dedicated supporter. Abby was a woman with so many dimensions and our loss has as many dimensions as Abby – as many dimensions as a beautifully cut gemstone. And just like a beautiful gem, I envision Abby’s love and connection beaming through, refracting, and spreading her light and warmth and spirit and healing across all those who knew her. Her memory, her blessings, her wisdom and her connection stays with us. We feel it. We know it. And we cherish it.
For me, I feel Abby everywhere. I see her brilliant imagination at work in Miri. I see her compassion in Jaren’s warm, comforting brown eyes. I recognize her wisdom when I listen to her best friend in life, her brother, Lucas. And I see her most heartfelt joys and deepest pains in the eyes of her Dad, Lee. I see Abby’s style and sense of fashion in Jessica, and I hear her infectious laugh and see her radiant smile whenever I’m with her girlfriends. I smell her presence when I sit down for a meal in the homes of our aunts and uncles. I feel her warmth when I light the Shabbat candles with our friends and sense her gratitude when our eyes meet during Shalom Aleichem. I feel her generosity, her consistency and her promise to take care of my family in my dad’s steady and helping hand. I feel her everywhere.
It is remarkable that while Abby is no longer here, she has not left us. That love and that connection that Abby shared with us all is still very much alive and at work.
On the anniversary of Abby’s death, Jaren, Miri and I found ourselves sitting on the banks of the Deschutes River. We admired the stretch of river before us – looking as far up and down the river as we could. We could only see but a small glimpse of it – several hundred yards of its over 250 miles – just a moment in time.
Abby is further downstream from us now. We feel her love and her connection and we experience it through our relationships together. As we turn the page on a year of loss, challenge and struggle, let’s swim together as the river takes us closer to Abby and those who left before us. Like time itself, let’s allow the rush of water to carry away and heal our collective grief. With this healing and with Abby’s eternal love and connection we can return to living life the way Abby would want us to – with passion, with meaning, with joy and with connection.
As I reflect in wonderment at Abby’s beautiful spirit, it strikes me that Abby’s love of words and her chosen profession to write stories for writers and journalists to pass forward and create far reaching impressions and impact was just practice. It was practice for her life’s most important work – To create radiant love and meaningful connection with her family, friends and the world around her and to teach and to inspire each of us, in turn, to create and amplify that love and connection in our lives.
Abby did the work. What a beautiful gift she gave each one of us. What a profound gift she gave ALL of us. Now it’s our turn to pay it forward and write the story.
May Abby’s soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.