Present Tense

Saying goodbye…again

heartOn the morning of March 4, 2015, my heart had another large chunk blown out of it when the news came that my dear friend Dawn had died. She was 52 and courageously battled breast cancer, which had apparently spread to her liver. None of us knew this until a few hours before she died.

I knew Dawn for nearly 40 years, since we were teenagers and her death was devastating for me and for many, many others whose lives she touched.  The lines for visitation at the funeral home went on for 4 hours. Standing room only. She was a rock star. I was humbled and honored to speak at her celebration of life.

After she died, I sat down to write my own personal thoughts on what she had meant to me.  When her sister Kelly asked if I’d be up for saying a few things, I was ready.

Some of you knew Dawn, most of you did not, but I want you to know her. She was an amazing person; a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend and an accomplished educator.  So, if you will indulge me, here are some excerpts from my remarks.

Since I was a year or two older, it seems as if I was always driving her someplace, which I didn’t mind as she was always entertaining company, but I think the single most vivid memory I have of Dawn, throughout our history together is from high school.

We had stopped to get gas at the Meijer’s on Columbia Avenue in Battle Creek. I recall that it was a warm sunny day and as I was pumping gas, I sent Dawn into the the little convenience store to pay for the gas. They had big speakers outside where the pumps were and this was during the disco era.

That crazy disco song “Knock On Wood” came on and as I stood there pumping gas, I looked up to see Dawn burst through the door . I mean, she flung that door open and commenced to perform a spontaneous, but perfectly choreographed interpretive dance all the way across the asphalt to the car. There were kicks and turns and spins and dramatic arm movements, all the while she was grinning like a lunatic. And you all know Dawn’s grin; big white teeth, huge blue eyes and her wild, curly blond hair. I was mesmerized by her performance; I looked around at everyone else pumping gas. They were mesmerized by her.

She timed it perfectly to pirouette right up to the car, where she jumped in. I got into the car and didn’t say a word. We just looked at each other and burst out laughing.

That moment perfectly summed up Dawn: Funny, crazy, impulsive, fearless. You could dare her to do anything and she’d do it. I’ve completely lost track of all of the scenes that she instigated in public.

We grew up and went our separate ways. I was at Dawn and Jeff’s wedding, where Kelly and I chuckled about Dawn marrying the football coach. We knew it was just an excuse to keep working up endless pom pom routines.

We lost track for a few years and she had Zach, Ryan and Jacob and they were nearly grown by the time Dawn and I re-connected. She had also managed to get a Master’s degree and a PhD, while working, raising 3 boys, traveling, organizing family holidays, maintaining numerous friendships and cheering on Jeff’s and the boys’ teams.

Over the past few years, we’ve called and texted and emailed and then when I moved back to Michigan from Colorado almost two years ago, we would meet for breakfast and lunch when we could. We got together in Traverse City where I live and when she called me to tell me about her cancer diagnosis, I worried and fussed about her taking care of herself and sent her holistic, airy-fairy articles, as I’m sure many of you did as well. We were all so proud of how she dealt with her illness and treatment.

We all know how funny Dawn was, but what I treasure was that she was so smart and serious about certain things; an amazing combo of silly, smart and serious. We would often solve the world’s problems over blueberry pancakes at Bob Evan’s. That is what I will miss the most; that she would sit and have deep discussions with me about politics and spirituality and books and movies and then stick a French fry up her nose.

I am so grateful that I was able to see her one last time in the hospital in Kalamazoo. She was weak and groggy, but looked great for one who was so ill and she made me laugh one last time with a couple of vintage Dawn comments. Of course I had no idea that would be my last visit with her and just like all of you, I’m struggling mightily with her passing. How could this happen? How can this be?

So I sat down to meditate the day after she died and I asked those same questions and just got quiet…and I felt her. She said “Don’t be sad for me… look, I lived a really full life…I crammed in everything that I could and I had a great time. Now, I want you to do the same thing. Live your life. Stop saying no and say yes. Laugh more, smile more, dance more and for God’s sake Jane, stop taking everything so seriously!”

And then she turned into a beautiful, sparkly, swirling beam of light and shot straight into my heart….where she will always reside. We all are here today because we carry little pieces of Dawn’s light in our hearts and every time you feel angry or impatient or sad, like today, or lonely or weak or like you just wanna dance, channel Dawn through that little chip of light in your heart. Call on her and you know she’ll show up. She always did. She’s there. Waiting to help. Be well. I’m blessed to be a part of Dawn’s tribe

March 10, 2015 - Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , ,


  1. I am very sorry for your loss. I recently lost a close friend as well, and it does hit hard. You definitely have my condolences. As lame as it can sound, try to remember the good times and celebrate them. Be well.

    Comment by Philip | March 10, 2015 | Reply

  2. What a beautiful, loving + special tribute to your precious friend. I did not know her but feel like I do now that I’ve read your remembrance. I’m truly sorry for your loss but know she has a special place in your heart + life forever.

    Comment by Jeri | March 10, 2015 | Reply

  3. A relative of Dawn’s……unable to attend the celebrations of her life….so appreciate your sharing.
    I have a cabin at Glen Lake…perhaps I will meet you in the spring when the cabin is open!

    Comment by Joyce Thompson | March 10, 2015 | Reply

    • Joyce
      Thank you for the note. It was a beautiful service and there was so much love at the visitation and at the Celebration of Life. I loved her madly and I know she loved being up here at the 45th parallel:) Take care.

      Comment by janelondon | March 11, 2015 | Reply

  4. Very moving…..

    Comment by Sharon | March 10, 2015 | Reply

  5. Jane, I am SO sorry for your loss. You have had such a rough year. You know I just lost my dad, do can’t imagine losing anyone wake right now. But as usual, you seem to be handling it with dignity and grace.

    You were there for me with the loss of my dad. Let me do the same for you. If you need anything…to vent, complain, meditate or pray,, I’m here. And I will be praying for you, because that’s what I do. Love. Peace.

    Comment by shellybelly12 | March 10, 2015 | Reply

    • Thanks so much. Any good thoughts you could send would always be appreciated, whether prayer or whatever:) Thanks for reaching out. It’s been a period of loss, that’s for sure. Hoping this is the end for awhile, but life has taught me that you certainly can’t depend on hope:)

      Comment by janelondon | March 11, 2015 | Reply

  6. My deepest condolences. Your remembrance made me both laugh and cry in empathy, having lost someone of my own under similar circumstances. It sounds like the joy she brought you will far outweigh the sorrow of her loss. I am happy you have that to take with you the rest of your journey.

    Comment by Sher | March 10, 2015 | Reply

  7. Jane, thank you for sharing a piece of your torn heart with the rest of the world. I’m so sorry for the painful loss of someone who was so much a part of your life. I’m so grateful to be at this place right now so I can receive the gift that your words are. Thanks again for sharing. Patricia

    Comment by trish2423 | March 10, 2015 | Reply

  8. Jane, I am sorry for your loss, and so thankful that you shared her story…your story. Some people think my logic is a bit off, but I always feel better after leaving a funeral. We may only know one side of a person, but hearing the ‘Rest of the Story” is often so uplifting and fulfilling and leaves mefeeling blessed for having shared in that life. Perhaps, it was intended for you to retire and return home so that you could have that reconnect. Dawn sounds like a fun, wise and wonderful person. Thanks, again. — Your words have meaning for others. Peace to you and your heart.

    Comment by Ted Lytle | March 10, 2015 | Reply

    • Ted
      I think you’re absolutely right about hearing ‘the other side’. I loved hearing from her co-workers, who described Dawn so perfectly and who’s stories jibed with mine:) She was obviously so real and authentic in every aspect of her life and that fills me with joy. My homecoming has been one loss after another, so I have no idea what the plan is, but I”m starting to think that our lives are all planned our and pre-ordained. Learning plenty of lessons and coping mechanisms, that’s for sure!
      Thank you.

      Comment by janelondon | March 11, 2015 | Reply

  9. Beautiful

    Comment by Pat Rosenthal | March 10, 2015 | Reply

  10. Beautiful, Jane. Over the past several months I’ve been faced with my own health compromises. Being young (45) and healthy all my life, the gravity of being told “you’re no longer a normal patient” is discouraging and I think it’s natural to wonder what kind of impact I’ve made on other people. Did I leave a legacy? Did I make a difference? It’s so wonderful that you can tell Dawn’s family what they already know about her — comforting to them that other people recognized what a remarkable human she was. I’m sorry for your loss. You’ve suffered through a lot of loss. Glad you have the perspective that you do.

    Comment by Donna R | March 10, 2015 | Reply

    • Donna
      Thank you for the kind note. I wish you all the best with your health; too often we take it for granted when we’re healthy and strong. Take care and I’m sure you have a wonderful legacy. We all contribute in our own way.

      Comment by janelondon | March 11, 2015 | Reply

  11. Thank you for sharing that beautiful tribute to your dear friend. Although I didn’t know Dawn, your words describe a beautiful, wonderful amazing person. I hope you take comfort in all the wonderful memories you shared.

    Comment by Bonnie Polzin | March 10, 2015 | Reply

  12. I was at the funeral yesterday and loved your tribute to Dawn. You captured her heart and soul with your words and I know she got a good chuckle out of some of it. You could always count on that smile no matter how bad things were. I will miss her too. Thank you.

    Comment by Melissa | March 10, 2015 | Reply

    • Melissa
      Thanks for the note. It was really a beautiful service for her. Will miss her smile and laugh, but I’m glad we were all able to get a few chuckles as we remembered her brilliant light in our lives.
      Take care,

      Comment by janelondon | March 14, 2015 | Reply

  13. Jane this is beautiful
    My deepest condolences to you.

    Comment by Marge | March 10, 2015 | Reply

  14. And now, we too, share in her Light. I can’t say enough how deeply sorry I am for your loss, but I will say thank you for sharing her with us. She lives on even in passing. Blessings of peace to you, my dear friend.

    Comment by kandisnz | March 10, 2015 | Reply

  15. Jane, thank you so much for opening your heart and sharing Dawn with all of us. I wish I had known her, and with your help, I feel as if I did. I lost a dear, dear friend in December. What a hole they leave in our lives when they pass. All my love to you.

    Comment by Gina | March 10, 2015 | Reply

  16. Jane, Jane, Jane…..sometimes I would hear you on the radio (years ago) and think “oh, be quiet”…. Today, your words touched my heart and I thank you. Thanks for sharing your personal life and your friend Dawn. I spent the day in the hospital with my sisters visiting our 79 y/o or as he would say “damn near 80” Dad who fell and broke 7 ribs. It’s torture hearing him ask to go home which may not happen at all as he has a UTI. Ok enough from me…but thank you! Tomorrow I will dance a bit into the ICU ;).

    Comment by Karen | March 10, 2015 | Reply

  17. Jane, Thank you for your wonderful tribute for our beautiful, unforgettable, Dawn. I was a young teacher at Highland Jr. High School in Lakeview, MI. and Dawn, along with her steadfast girlfriends, were in my gym class during 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. We had a lot of fun back in the early 1970’s! We re-connected via social media 3 years ago. Oh, how I wish we could have had the chance to see each other again. I am so very proud of all her accomplishments, talents, love for family, friends and educating students. She was a treasure. My sincere condolences to you, Jane, and to all who loved Dawn.

    Comment by Mrs. Kathleen Hilla | March 10, 2015 | Reply

    • Kathleen
      Thank you for the note. She was one in a million, that’s for sure and I’m sure that all of her teachers were carried in her huge heart as she went forward with her career. She will be missed by many, but they will carry her lessons with them.

      Comment by janelondon | March 11, 2015 | Reply

  18. Outstanding tribute to a great person. Thanks Jane.

    Comment by Tim Lankerd | March 10, 2015 | Reply

  19. Jane, The gas station story played like a movie in my head as you described Dawn’s antics. I could see it all, as if I was there, looking on. She certainly had a flair for life! Thank you for sharing…I’m always awed by those who can get past their sadness for a few moments and share stories and memories at funerals. Dawn will be missed by so many as was evident by that long line at visitation. Thank you again for sharing.

    Comment by Connie | March 11, 2015 | Reply

  20. I have, had, and still have a friend like that in my heart. I totally ‘get’ it.

    Comment by Jason Burns | March 11, 2015 | Reply

  21. Hugs and prayers for you, Jane

    Comment by Betty | March 11, 2015 | Reply

  22. Thank you for the wonderful tribute. Her sister Kelly is a great friend of mine. I am so sad to hear of Dawn’s passing. I enjoyed a Fourth of July will her and her family. We all had a great time that weekend.

    Comment by Lesley | March 11, 2015 | Reply

    • Lesley,
      I’m so glad you were able to experience a few “Dawn moments”:) She and Kelly were such a great pair of sisters. We will certainly miss her. Take care of Miss Kelly, please.

      Comment by janelondon | March 14, 2015 | Reply

  23. Very touching and inspirational Jane! I am so sorry for your loss.

    Comment by Sara | March 11, 2015 | Reply

  24. I am missing Dawn today. I reread your thoughtful words. Thank you.


    Comment by Jenny Laughlin | June 30, 2015 | Reply

    • Jenny
      I don’t think a day goes by without her popping into my thoughts. I see something absurd or funny and want to text her….Dammit.

      Comment by janelondon | June 30, 2015 | Reply

  25. Beautifully written Jane. You words touched my soul and made water come out from my eyes. I just love knowing that there are people like you in this world. Thank-you for sharing your journey with us through your gift of writing. I gather that writing is just one of your many gifts. Love and peace always.

    Comment by Tasha | June 5, 2016 | Reply

    • *your

      Comment by Tasha | June 5, 2016 | Reply

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