Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Leigh’s Memorial Party

On Saturday, November 12th the sun was shining in a sapphire blue sky as people drove down Rob’s driveway. Harriett and I (Leigh’s moms) had draped the fence on both sides of the drive with wide yellow ribbon, accented with white floral sprays at the apex of each drape. The guests were greeted at the upper pasture-turned-parking-lot, by Richard and John, who parked their cars, and directed them to the kegs of flavored beer. This wasn’t going to be your ordinary memorial service.
Rob had rented a huge white tent and fifteen round tables and had them set up in the lower pasture. Recent rains had given us a carpet of new grass to grace the floor. Rachel Hardy, Leigh’s step-mom, beautifully decorated the tables with flower arrangements and candles, using fall colors. There was a table at the entrance with coffee service and about a dozen different types of wine and wine glasses.
We had filled a hundred helium balloons and tied them to the entrance to the tent. We also had 34 numbered white balloons to represent each year of Leigh’s life.
Outside the tent were a long table, a barrel barbeque, and a tripod holding a huge black cauldron of beans cooking over an open fire.
The service started with a slide show of Leigh and Sarah McGlaughlin singing “I Will Remember You.” Then while the extensive slide show continued, Rob talked about Leigh’s life and escapades. His talk was sprinkled with letters from others, and flying jargon, and funny things that had happened throughout their ten-year time together. He had us laughing and crying, sometimes both at once.
He ended by reminding us that we were here to send her off each in our own way. Then he said slowly, through his tears,

“Angel Flight N624LG, runway 34, straight-out departure approved, cleared for takeoff. Have a nice flight, Baby Girl.”

Then he played the song that they danced their first dance as man and wife to, “Nothing Lasts For Long” by The Samples. Leigh was psychic.

We all had a turn speaking after that. He played “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor, “Fields of Gold” by Eva Cassidy, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by IZ Kamakawiwo’ole, and “The Sweetest Thing” by U2, interspersed between people’ talks.
Father Art, the Episcopal chaplain from the hospital did a little service, and then we released the balloons. As they rose into the sky, a jet flew directly overhead, leaving a trail of white smoke above the balloons. It was magical.
Leigh’s flight instructor then did a few very low fly-overs. Everyone in attendance pronounced the whole thing glorious. Then we ate, drank and tried so hard to be merry.

Now comes the hard part.

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