From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

Saying Good-Bye

Mourning is not forgetting . . . It is an undoing. Every minute tie has to be untied and something permanent and valuable recovered and assimilated from the dust.

Margery Allingham

The weather put on one of its grandest shows on the day of my friend Teri’s funeral service. A radiant sun shone down on us as we entered the church, and a gentle breeze swirled the women’s skirts. It was as if Mother Nature herself insisted that Teri leave us in proper style.

“The sorrow is ours,” her son Jeff said in his moving eulogy.

And it was.

Teri wasn’t famous. Her photo never once appeared in any magazine, and her name wasn’t one of the “regulars”

in any society column.

But if you lived in our little South Jersey town for any length of time, you knew Teri. She was the kind of woman who reached out to newcomers, as well as to the lonely and the lost. And she swept them all up into her incredible embrace.

If you lived on the east side of town, you probably recognized the house on the quiet corner, the one with the tire swing and the tiny lady out on the lawn, typically surrounded by hordes of children.

Teri had six of her own. Plus, eight grandchildren. In this day and age, such families are all but extinct. So the kids and grandkids were semi-celebrities, if only because there were so many of them. Besides that, they were terrific: diverse, interesting, funny, fun.

For more than two decades, my husband and I lived around the corner from Teri and her gang. It was Teri who reached out to us when we were “the new kids on the block,” and who saw to it that we got to know the other people in the neighborhood.

Connection was Teri’s gift. In a got-to-have-a-gimmick world, she had none. In a culture that measures who you are by what you do, Teri had no snappy résumé. Not unless you counted her unique brand of faith, love and charity.

She was a bright, thoughtful, interested and interesting woman, whose best work was home and family. She was wise without ever reminding you that she was. And if you think that’s not much, then you probably wouldn’t have had much time for Therese Marie, the name she was given at birth but that nobody ever used.

Our Teri needed no spotlight in order to shine.

I never had a conversation with my friend and neighbor that didn’t leave me with some new idea rattling around in my head. I never left one of her parties without thinking, Now why can’t all parties be like that?

Forget fancy food. Forget pretension. At this house, what you got was a zany kind of pleasure that was easier to feel than to explain. Teri was the Pied Piper of joyous abandon, a child disguised as an adult. Little ones adored her. And big ones did, too.

Every pew was filled at the memorial service for my
dear friend. Long after the service was over, we lingered outside the church where we had heard a son eulogize his mother, reminding us of how she made every moment important. Our town’s main street had become a moving sea of Teri fans, each of us with our own Teri story.

So many of us felt bereft. And terribly cheated. Death had ambushed Teri in a matter of days, not weeks or months. And few of us had time for a proper good-bye.

Many of us still clutched the little memorial card distributed at the church. On the card was printed a prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, which read, in part, “Where there is hatred, let me show love. Where there is sadness, joy.” So quintessentially Teri, those notions.

It seemed hard to part from our neighbors and friends
on that sparkling morning. It seemed odd that in the distance, traffic moved, people shopped and the world went about its business. But outside the church, we couldn’t seem to mobilize.

Some of us needed to be near her husband, to surround this man who had been married to Teri for fifty-one years. We could only imagine the anguish he was facing. Some needed to be near Teri’s six children who had just said the hardest good-bye.

On the way home from the memorial service, riding in stunned silence, we passed Teri’s house. There were no kids outside; no bicycles heaped against the hedges.

And for the first time in ages, the tire swing was empty.

Sally Friedman

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