Funerals Suck and other thoughts

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!

Dariana
Dariana
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3 thoughts on “Funerals Suck and other thoughts

  1. hi,

    you dont know me. i got a password just so i could respond to this blog.

    thank you for writing this. you dont know how much i appreciate knowing some more details about the end of dari’s life.

    dari and i met a couple of years ago. we both had sons in iraq and we both did peace activism. that made us instant friends.

    your intuition about dari’s husband is right on. that is the reason i couldnt see her before she died and why i didnt know she had died until her funeral was over with.

    i had email contact with mostly. we had one phone conversation before she died. i did not call her because i didnt want to fire things up with her husband. he was volitile and she had enough to deal with just getting through treatments and trying to side step his emotional and physical outbursts. i was afraid to call and afraid not to call her.

    im not sure if i could have handled the funeral anyway. he makes me cringe. i will just remember her the way that she was.

    if people would have known that dariana died, many more people would have been there. she was an inspiration to many people.

  2. im sorry i accidently posted that before i was finished and hen some how double posted.

    here is a letter from an activist group that dari and i worked with in d.c.Dear Cindy,
    I am devastated to hear this news–I had feared the worst when I did not hear back from my numerous calls to Dariana before the RNC. Dariana’s spirit of activism, fearlessness, creativity, speaking out, community organizing, and campaigning has inspired so many of our CODEPINK activists, myself included… How can we contact her family and is there a way we can raise funds for activism or any of the groups she worked with locally in her honor?
    Thank you so much for getting in touch with us.
    Much love, hugs to you sister-in-peace,
    Rae

    rae then wrote the following release on dari:

    Dear CODEPINKers,

    Yesterday I received an email notice from military mom and activist Cindy Kaylor who wrote to share the devastating news that Dariana Donovan died earlier this summer of lung cancer. Since October, 2006, Dariana has coordinated a CODEPINK local group in Peoria, IL. Dariana’s spirit of activism, fearlessness, creativity, speaking out, community organizing, videos and blogs, and campaigning has inspired so many of our CODEPINK activists. Dariana’s son, Dustin, is currently serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. Her daughter-in-law deployed to Iraq in May of 2007. You can see a video of her son’s visit home on 4 days of leave on Dariana’s YouTube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=DariDonovan

    Dariana answered CODEPINK’s call to action with such creativity, perseverance, and compassion that she will forever be one of my sheroes. Dariana took on CODEPINK’s national campaigns and added her own flare to make them something really special: She printed out our photos of Iranian children, made peace necklaces, AND printed her own t-shirts with the 50-foot woman design and then sent us a photo to add to our Iran campaign page. She created the CODEPINK Peoria blog (http://daridonovan.net/blog/) to share news about local peace actions and recent soldier deaths. Just weeks before she died, she stood in solidarity with activists all over the country on Memorial Day to banner over the freeway for peace and impeachment. You can see photos of her and her freeway blogging PINK team here: http://www.codepinkalert.org/userdata_display.php?modin=54&uid=5486

    A year ago, Dariana was busy urging her representatives to stop buying Bush’s war. She visited Senator Durbin’s office and was told that even though the office had an “open door” policy, she would not be let inside. She and her CODEPINK Peoria friends stood outside in the cold for an hour waiting and then meeting with three of Durbin’s staffers about the war funding issue. Dissatisfied with the response, Dariana next confronted Congressman Ray LaHood at a press conference and at a biker rally to benefit military families. LaHood agreed to meet with Dariana after the TV cameras were gone, and Dariana created this video, “Ray LaHood On and Off Camera,” from their conversation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FqGcGYNJrI
    Dariana didn’t wait for LaHood to change his “open mind”; she went straight from that event to organize a peace rally with music, poetry, art, and, as she wrote to me, “a chance to sign up new CODEPINKERS!”

    CODEPINK organizer Janet Weil was in touch with Dariana earlier this summer and wrote, “Even over the phone, Dariana’s strength, eloquence and caring heart came shining through. I will never forget her telling me that she regarded her stage 4 cancer as an opportunity to appreciate life and continue with peace work. Her courage and gratitude for life and its blessings were all the more impressive since she was also a mother of a soldier in Iraq. How my heart aches for him. I talked to Rae about Dariana’s impact on me and said, ‘We have to get her to the RNC… she would inspire so many women there!’ She continues to inspire me and will inspire others if we can get her story out to others. We will just have to carry on in her memory and the memory of so many others who have passed on during the years of this terrible illegal war.”

    While battling Stage IV lung cancer, Dariana was still considering joining CODEPINK to protest the Republican National Convention last month. In an email to me she wrote, “The healing thoughts and support I have received from Codepink sisters nationwide has been most touching and greatly appreciated. As I told Medea, I will continue to speak out against this war and the Bush administration as long as I have breath in my body! Thank you all for all you do and for the show of love!”

    If you didn’t get a chance to know Dariana while she was alive, you can see her video about why she supported the troops, including her son, and opposed the war, here:

    Dariana will live on in our hearts and her spirit will continue to ignite our activism.

    At this time we are not able to send our condolences to her family.

    If you would like to post your reflections on Dariana’s life and activism, you can do so on our PinkTank where this is posted at:
    http://codepink4peace.org/blog/2008/09/remembering-dariana-donovan/

    If you would like to make a donation to CODEPINK in Dariana’s honor, you can do so here:
    https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/424/shop/custom.jsp?donate_page_KEY=191

    In solidarity and loving memory,
    Rae Abileah

    again, thank you for writing this. i didnt the details of how dari died and even though it was horrible to hear, i am glad i know what happened at the end.

    also, you may want to know that daris family was having a funeral in tennessee and i am sure it was so that they could grieve her without the presence of her husband…he is truly a creep.

    i wont go into more than i have siad about him as dari asked me not to tell anyone about how he treated her. she has shared with others as much as i did here. so i feel that much is fine, but i wont go into details.

    she was my only ally in central illinois for activism against the war. i miss her dearly. thank you for sharing this experience. somehow it makes me feel alright that i missed it.

    peace.
    cindy

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