I belong to an online site called “SingSnap”. It’s online karaoke site that I frequent daily. I tell you this to introduce you to an almost friend of mine from there. I met “Dariana” through one of the songs I sang a few months ago. Basically she saw that someone had sung a favorite song of hers, and she randomly picked me to listen to. She liked what she heard and she saw in my profile that I live in Illinois. In fact we only lived about 10 miles from each other. She wrote me immediately gushing over my voice (which I always love to hear) and we begin an email friendship. Always with the tagline…”We’ll have to get together soon.” One day I wrote on one of my songs that I had been to a specific function and she emailed back and said that she too had been there and that we must have even seen each other and didn’t realize it! I laughed and thought how lucky she was not to have seen me…I didn’t look my best or feel my best that day.
I got a private message from another of my friends on SingSnap last week. He said “Dariana” had died. Seems she had been suffering through Chemo Treatments for an aggressive cancer and while in the hospital undergoing these treatments, she began bleeding and actually drowned in her own blood.
Horrifying thought isn’t it? I was dumbfounded. I searched my mind for the last time I had spoken with here through the email. I know if she had told me that anything was wrong I would have remembered about it. But nothing came to the forefront of my memory. Just the small chitchat that I am so infamous for.
Partly out of guilt and mostly out of the want to finally meet her, I decided to attend her visitation last Friday evening. My husband came home a bit early and he said he would take me and then afterwards, we would go out for supper.
I had been dressed all in black, as I had been so dutifully taught by my family. Black is for mourning, any bright colors would not show respect for the deceased. But when hubby called and said we would be going out for dinner, I thought what I was wearing was WAY too somber for the Longhorn Steakhouse that we so dearly love. I changed into a sweet pink sweater top and black pants hoping it would be dressy but still respectful of Dari.
We arrived at the funeral home right at the start time for visitation. There were only a couple of cars in the parking area next to the church. I wondered quickly if I had misread where the visitation would be, surely so few people wouldn’t be here for Dari. I entered the front doors and was met with the stains of Dari’s voice, singing hymns over the intercom system. It was a bit unsettling. Dari was a lovely woman who adored singing. Devoted time to it in fact. But Dari’s voice was light and airy and had no power in it. In fact at times I found it irritating to the ears. All these thoughts passed through my head as I made my way inside the large empty space. I was greeted by a man who appeared to have severe back problems. He was hunched over in an almost Igor-like stance. I said I was here for Dari and he pointed me off to the left direction towards a hallway.
I walked to the little podium where the guest book lay and signed in as Londie (Sweetnote) representing SingSnap. I had forgotten my reading glasses and was hoping that I had even hit the line correctly. Suddenly a man was at my side with his hand under my elbow. “Hello and who are you?” He was smiling, well, to me at the time and with the surprise of the approach it appeared more of a leer. I explained who I was and that I was representing SingSnap friends and he went into this how wonderful I was to have come thing that was very embarrassing. He told me he was Dari’s husband and introduced me to his mother and I smiled and said how sorry I was for their loss. I glanced quickly around the room. Dari in the coffin off to my right, a Big Screen TV flashing images of her life, a table with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. items on it and four bouquets of flowers. Only two people were sitting in the chairs made available.
I tried withdrawing my arm from the gentleman’s grasp and he held it one more second more than was comfortable for me. I moved on to speak with the mother in law. She told me that it was so upsetting that Dari had died so suddenly. She had tears in her eyes and I could see she truly did love Dari even though she’d only been in her family about four years. The husband made a point of saying to me “Well, I’ve only known Dari for four years,” in a tone that made me cringe. I mean CRINGE! It was as if he were sizing up the next girl in line! Behind me a gentleman walked in and thankfully the husbands attention went to him. “I didn’t think I’d get you out away from home if there wasn’t any food involved,” he said to the guy. Obviously mortified by the statement, the guy muttered something and moved quickly behind me at the tables looking through the photo albums. The mother in law had insisted I spend some time seeing Dari when she looked so good. So I did, knowing my hubby was waiting in the parking lot for me, but wanting to show respect for Dari. I moved over to the casket and the mother in law moved in to talk to me again. “See this bouquet of Roses?” she said. “I get to take them home with me. Dari’s mother called me and told me to take them home with me.” “Dari’s mother? Where is she?” I asked. “She lives in Tennessee and can’t be here for the funeral.”
My heart sank. I looked again around this room of chairs and wood and Dari, looking frail with a terrible wig and horrendous makeup and I literally became ill. I knew that this was Dari’s life. It had been empty, with a few friends, a husband who pretended to love her and only a mother in law to help keep her sanity. The photos of her showed a smiling vibrant woman a few years earlier. Before this marriage I was sure. I wondered how many people actually knew Dari was gone. The loneliness she felt swept over me.
I spoke to the mother in law about Dari singing over the intercom. Then she said, “Dari had such trouble singing. She had to be on oxygen so much of the time.” I reeled back rethinking those thoughts about the airy singing that I had made to myself and realizing that it had taken every ounce of her strength to pour any voice into any song. I felt ashamed for judging her singing the way I had done.
I stood by Dari’s casket looking at her small frail body and I apologized for never getting together with her and for judging her singing so harshly. It didn’t help, I still felt terrible. How could one feel so bad about someone they really never knew?
Fortunately two more people showed up and both the husband and the mother in law moved towards them. Husband with arms opened wide to hug the woman who just entered. I made for the door quickly.
I dedicated a song to Dari on Singsnap. It was Songbird by Eva Cassidy. People have been leaving comments for the family and to celebrate the passing of one of their own. In fact SEVERAL people made tributes to Dari. Seems that this sweet woman had been counseling other people who had found out they had cancer, and had set up her own website for information. I never knew this about her either.
Who is that one person in your life that you keep saying, “Yes, we’ll have to get together very soon?” Pick up the phone, send an email, make a date. You don’t know what you are missing out on. Don’t do what I did and wait too long. So here’s to Dari! Actually Gena G. Donovan Burge. Dariana was her Singsnap name…I didn’t know that about her either!