Diana left me three wrapped gifts for the holidays. On the outside of each gift were these messages:
1) To Landon, With all of my LOVE. -Diana
2) To Landon, With as much HOPE as can be. -Diana
3) To Landon, I have FAITH in you. -Diana.
I had originally thought about naming Diana’s memorial service a Celebration of Life, but really … Diana hated life. She loved Love, and she tried to have Hope and Faith for as long as she could. It seemed only fitting that any space to honor Diana be named after Love, Hope, and Faith.
The first service was thus named a Celebration of Love, and was held on December 29th, 2016 at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. At Birch, we held a beautiful fire for her, run by a shaman named Chajil Ja’, and a radical faerie named Luigi (someone whom Diana loved and respected). For months leading up to Diana’s death, Luigi kept coming up in our conversations each weekend; neither of us understood why. It was actually Luigi’s idea to hold a fire, and a part of me thinks that Diana chose him, in a way, to send her off into whatever is next.
Prior to the fire, Chajil Ja’ and Luigi worked together to plan out the parts and intention of the fire ceremony. Chajil Ja’ also asked me a number of questions, including, “What animals mean something to Diana?” My first thought was the monkey, after the magical experience we had in Honduras with monkeys in the forest of Gumbalimba. The second was the sea turtle, since Diana used to rescue them, and we also had a really magical experience looking for nests on Fort Lauderdale Beach back in October of 2016.
Chajil Ja’ and her partner made the base of the fire was into a sea turtle (below). She told me after the fire that the Mayan calendar actually pointed to the monkey as Diana’s birth animal and the turtle as her spirit animal. Wild. She also told me that Diana was present at the fire and was very, very happy.
The fire was beautiful — about 100 people from Diana’s many circles/lives came out, including her mother and brother. There were environmentalists from her environmental activism days, there were kinksters and queers and trans folks along lots of intersections, there were people that she worked with in public health/HIV work, there were youth, there were friends, there were lovers, and of course there was me — her Partner, a label that we finally settled on together just this past fall.
I think what would have made her most happy was that people came exactly as I’d asked them to — as themselves. And on top of that, the space was intergenerational, something that Diana found to be of great importance, especially in the queer community … where our history is often altered, whitewashed, hidden away, lost. (Pictured below: Longtime bi activist and Radical Faerie, Luigi, on the left; Trans/non-binary youth activist, Jack, on the right.)
Let us have intergenerational space not only for educational purposes, but also for celebration, for grieving.
Almost nobody cried in this space. We told stories and we laughed. Jowharah had pictures printed of us to put around the fire:
We even brought a generator, laptop, speakers, and a projector to show video tributes from Diana’s two closest friends (both whom live out of town), as well as a slideshow prepared by Rhys Harper. Though, I guess Diana had something different in mind, because the electronics just didn’t work.
Many people told me that this was the most remarkable, beautiful memorial that they’d ever been to.
And I swear that the fire often looked like a gorgeous, powerful woman dancing around, with her hair let loose, wild, and free — do you see Her?
The second service for Diana was called a Celebration of Hope & Faith, held on January 6th, 2017, at Richardson Historic Park and Nature Preserve in her hometown of Wilton Manors. Wilton Commissioner Julie Carson sponsored the space, and presented a beautiful proclamation to honor Diana’s Legacy. About 40 people attended.
I slated this event to be a pot luck, as Diana loved pot lucks (and always showed up with ziploc bags and/or containers in so she could take food home!). She had so many quirky, endearing qualities, and this was just one of them.
There was plenty of food, and we brought over Diana’s liquor to be shared in community. We finally got to see the video tributes and Rhys’ slideshow. The slideshow included three really special songs — Beautiful Mess by Jason Mraz (I often sang this to her), Homeward Bound by Simon & Garfunkel (she often sang this to me), and Hearse by Ani Difranco. We both felt that Hearse summed up the depths of our love, and how it would endure long ‘after our atoms are dispersed.’ I cried through the entire slideshow. Just so many beautiful memories.
I invited folks back to Diana’s after the service, and we sat in her living room and talked, had cocktails, laughed, cried, and cavetched (she told me just that Saturday prior to her death that I “love to cavetch”). It was so surreal to sit with so many people in her living room and for her not to be there. I know that there were plenty of times when she invited people over, many of whom just never came by. She sometimes shared about her loneliness with me, so it was ironic to see so many people come out to celebrate her life at these two events.
After both of these Celebration/Memorial events, it was pristine clear to me that Diana touched so very many lives. Yet, it was also a painful reminder that we must do our best to love our people while they are here — not just when they’re gone … especially because we just never know how or when they will go.