I’m not sure I can do this. I woke up with a throat so sore that I spent most of the morning sucking on chloraseptic lozenges and not talking to anybody. And there’s the idea that I’m supposed to somehow keep my s**t together while I say goodbye to my dearest friend soul match in front of what looks like 300 people.
Chris told me he spoke to Abi last night, and relayed to me that she promised I would be fine. That’s she’d be there if I needed to lean on her. But I’m wondering if that’s just something people say. Or if he’s (understandably) losing his mind.
I walk up and look out on the crowd. I try to say something, but nothing happens.
It’s little Olivia. Sitting in the second row.
The room takes a deep breath. And everybody laughs. That cleansing, everything is going to be okay laugh that I really, really needed to hear.
I’m pretty sure Olivia is talking to Abi, who had just slipped into the room, given her a kiss on the forehead, and sat down in the chair beside her.
Chris still might be losing his mind. But I believe him now. Abi is keeping her promise. She’s shown up, just as she promised.
People are still laughing.
I look over toward Olivia.
Where Abi is sitting.
“Oh, hi!,” I say.
Abigail Pereira Mayer. Wife, sister, daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, best friend. The woman who would dance without embarrassment, always having the time of her life. The woman who would make a full tub of popcorn for herself as a full meal, and would look at you curiously wondering what you were going to do for yours. The woman who would hug you, listen to you, and love you like you were the only person in the room.
On the planet.
In the universe.
What could possibly be enough and right and all-encompassing and concise and celebratory as she wanted? My best friend: ambitious on my behalf until the very end.
As I sought out inspiration for this humbling task - a task that Abi, herself, had assigned to me - I realized that I had already written part of this Eulogy in the spring of last year. Here is an excerpt from a letter to Abi called “Caring Bridge Remix”, and shoutout to all the original Caring Bridge fans out there, you know who you are.
I can't remember the specific moment we became friends, but I have fond memories of Physics class, attempting to tie perfect bows, and working to master the lift in Dirty Dancing in your swimming pool in the summertime. (While most of you might be picturing cute 10 year old girls, remember that Abi and I didn't become friends until we were about 17. We were basically grown women doing mock synchronized swimming routines and Dirty Dancing lifts in our down time).
In our early days, you shared your love for photography with me and we rode around listening to some original Taylor Swift (#staybeautiful) with the windows down in our favorite Beetle, affectionately named Ringo Starr. I think of how the idea of "fate" was tested for me on June 10, 2008, the day of your accident. We call it our friendship anniversary now - trying to take a positive spin on a not so positive day.
I found this email chain between us from about three years ago on our “anniversary”, and I thought it fit well. Part of it says,
Abi, I mean it when I say I couldn't picture the last six years without you. Sometimes when I make a new friend and I talk about you, we get around to the story of that day, and every time I use the same comparison of when I got out of the car and it felt like a movie...We had only been friends for a few months, but you were something special and it wasn't the right time. That day changed my life, too, but more importantly, you did. Our friendship is one I cherish more than I can express, I'm sure. You know you get bonus points for your family and of course John now, but I look forward to a life of friendship with you.
After reading the email, I fast forward to February 9, 2017, and again this idea of everything happening for a reason seems unthinkable, especially for someone who brings so much joy and love into our world. I catch myself thinking again… it’s not the right time. As I continue exploring the intention or coincidence behind the events of our lives, what I know to be true is this: you are resilient. Intentional or completely by chance, whatever obstacles arise for you, you give everything you have and you fight. When I think about luck, I choose to focus on how lucky I feel for everyday after June 10 and for the years of your friendship and love that followed. I imagine everyone feels the same. I also think about your strength as you fight in this new challenge, your incredible family, and your support system.
I cannot stress enough that those are not a representation of luck - they are a direct reflection of who you are and how you have shared your love with all of us. I don't think you realize what your love looks like, but I hope you can feel us trying to match it with you now.
As I continue to wonder what would be enough to say about Abigail Pereira Mayer, I realize I’d rather have her speak f
or herself. As many of you know, First Descents was a program she participated in rather early in her diagnosis. I read through her own words reflecting on that experience and the way it led her to focus on what she called raw nerve moments; I found her charge to everyone in this room. Because if you are in this room, you are loved by Abi. You have been touched by Abi. And I’m guessing you want to know what you can do now to honor Abi.
I’ll turn it over to Abi, and I know she’s smiling because she gets to have a say after all. In her blog, Abi wrote,
“While I am usually able to direct my attention to the positive effects of my diagnosis ..., there are moments I simply feel overwhelmed by indefinite treatments, ambiguous results, and uncertain outcomes. When I get to that place, it can be a challenge to shake myself out of it.
But here’s the thing. I am not choosing to live “raw” because it is the easiest way to deal with my diagnosis. Is it possible I could have kept working a 9-5 job, spent time away from my family, and continued chasing a paycheck? Sure. I would be uncomfortable, partially-engaged, and in a better place financially. Could I choose to focus on getting back to my old life instead of living intentionally in this moment? Absolutely. I’m sure there is comfort to be found in maintaining some level of “normalcy” through it all. But I’m not seeking normalcy. I’m seeking adventure. I’m seeking pure, unadulterated emotion. I’m seeking gratitude. I’m seeking fear and the rush of overcoming it. I’m seeking joy. I’m seeking the happiest days of my life, because I really believe I have yet to live them.
In seeking these things, I’m making myself vulnerable to some painful RNMs, too. But I chose this (and continue to choose this every single day), because it means I am feeling.
It’s my challenge by choice.”
Abi’s values were crystal clear and they shaped the world she was creating. Her ultimate scheme, because let’s face it - she’s a master strategist who is always up so something - was for the world to be as beautiful as she knew it could be.
If only everyone did exactly what she wanted exactly how she wanted them to.
Her values may be familiar to you: Live, Love, Dare, and Make.
You may not have known this, but you came here today with a specific charge from Abi. I hope you brought your notebooks. Your grief is expected and understood, trust me on that one. But she needs something from you, if you don’t mind. So here’s your assignment:
First, to Love. She says:
To love is to accept the kindness of strangers, friends, and family. To have the courage to tell the people who have touched us how they filled our hearts. To hug like we mean it. To let somebody cut in line. To do a nice thing for somebody who didn't even ask, and never tell another soul. To let it come in. To let it pour out.
Today, Abi would like you to write a letter to someone you love. Do it today and then do it again after everything settles. Nothing bothered Abi more than the idea that we wouldn't take every opportunity possible to tell someone that we love them, how much, and why. You’re in this room because you know that Abi is the master of relationships with her wide open heart. Everyone learned from Abi how to have grace in times of hardship and to practice forgiveness because without it, there would be barriers to loving. By knowing Abi, everyone had to learn how to accept a love so big, full, honest, and fearless.
Second, to Dare. She says:
To dare is to jump out of an airplane, learn to surf, kayak down a Class IV rapid, take a black diamond run, or go rock climbing in the mountains, even if it terrifies us – but more likely, because it terrifies us. To take trips to California or London or East Beach with our brothers and sisters and parents and cousins and roommates and friends, even if there are no convenient times. To try the grasshopper tacos if they're on the menu. To drink something other than Pinot Noir and Old Fashioneds.
Honor Abi’s encouragement of challenge by choice that she learned from First Descents. She’s not suggesting you quit your job, though ironically she encouraged it for so many of us to get to the core of what we really want to be doing with our time and gifts. Jury’s still out on whether or not I’m going back to work on Monday, for example. But the point is to choose one thing that you've been afraid to do and act on it. Abi was one of the most stubborn humans I had ever met, and it was nearly always for the sake of being a fierce advocate for someone she loved. She dared to speak up and ask for what she needed, and what she wanted for those who loved her.
Thirdly, to Make. She says:
To make is to bake crusty bread and bagels at home, and share it with the neighbors. To take pictures of puppies and people and capture moments - beautiful and terrible - in photos. To design greeting cards. To write stories and poems and essays, and let people read them. To prepare amazing feasts with the good china every single month, and to invite new people.
Many of you know that this past year, Abi began to implement monthly Christmases, she created Outwrite Design Co., a card company to amplify the gratitude that needed to be honored in the world. She created special occasions all on their own like “Kylie Day” to celebrate the love of best friends. These were the both painful and breathtaking creations that reflected the way everything about Abi was amplified in the last year and a half. Everything “Abi” about her grew at an exponential rate. She made food, experiences, memories. She made for the people she loved, with her love and passion embedded into everything she created.
Finally, to Live. She says:
To live is to take note of every shade of pink and yellow and red and green of a December sunrise over the bay. To lie on the beach with our eyes closed and hear every subtle tone in the crashing of a wave and the squeaky chirps of a group of sandpipers. To feel every grain of sand and every sharp rock against our bare feet, and to feel the way a warm breeze feels in our hair. To admire the tiny green bugs at work on the inside of a hibiscus bloom.
For Abi, choose the big gestures, the big moments, the intentional quality time, the people that fill you up, the career that fuels your heart, the forgiveness for those who faltered and the forgiveness for yourself when you stumble.
Create a stunning world that you would be humbled to leave behind.
Abi lived the full, rich, purposeful life of a 90 year old in just shy of 28 years. Cancer was so many horrible things, but it also freed her. She was able to live fully, cut the excess, and share her courageous spirit whose presence would fill an entire room like the thousands of flowers surrounding us today. She wanted us to drown in the smell of thousands of stock flowers so we could feel alive.
So take a deep breath.
(No. Really do it.)
Do you feel that?
You’re alive, so live fully.
Your homework, to recap is simple: To Love. To Dare. To Make. And most importantly, to Live.
We all grappled with what it would look like, after Abi left us physically. One of the hardest questions I remember reading last February in a piece Chris wrote was, “When you get old and start seeing the hummingbirds or dragonflies or butterflies in your kitchen, who will be there to admire their colors with you?”
I am so silly.
That’s what I keep thinking.
Because after Thanksgiving, I spoke to Abi on the phone... for what I didn’t know then to be the last time. I was blubbering over her requests to help with Two Flounders and all the things she wanted my help with moving forward. After. She was tired, and I could feel that.
She said to me simply, in her matter of fact, annoying Abi kind of way:
“I’m never going to be gone.”
I look around the room today at Abi’s Army, and I really get it.
If you’re interested for a moment, put your arms around the person next to you, hold their hand if that seems alright to do, or just take in the energy around you. And afterward, talk to someone new that was brought to you by Abi, because her spirit has been gifted to all of us.
What an honor we've been given.
To my Abigail: We will take care of one another just as you hoped we would, and we will live your values into eternity.
Most importantly, we love you.