This is the eulogy I delivered for Kim at her funeral.
The first time Kim and I went out, she told me two things:
* she lived in little Italy and could have me killed for fifty dollars and
* she was afraid of surviving a brain injury in a car accident.
She told me that on our first date.
It was January 25 1992. We’d been friends for a while but had never gone anywhere. Now and then I got tickets from the radio station I worked for and invited her to go with me. This time she accepted.
Over the next couple of months we spent more and more time together but Kim didn’t really want to date me.
She told me later that she knew if we dated, we’d get married, and she really wanted to marry a Catholic.
One night she told me she’d pick up dinner on the way back from class and we should meet at her apartment.
She stopped for Chinese takeout. We’d decided to split a meal and an entree. She chose the meal I chose the entree.
I met her at her apartment and was snooping around a bit. I opened her refrigerator.
There were only three things in it: half-and-half for her coffee, a bottle of vodka, and a box – a box – of wine.
I turned around and she’d served the rice and the two entrees on plates for us and carried them over to the table.
“Where’s the egg roll”, I asked.
“What egg roll,” she asked back, her mouth filled with the egg roll.
“I thought we were going to split it.”
“You’re entree didn’t come with an egg roll.”
That was Kim.
For the next twenty-some years together I would say – “I should have known. That egg roll.”
That also wasn’t Kim.
Just last week we went to see the Shaker Community Band play. It was a beautiful night on the lawn and the music was fun. Maggie introduced one of the pieces and we couldn’t have been prouder.
“Did you know she was going to do this?” Kim asked.
Maggie was poised, funny, and got all of the facts in effortlessly. Kim and I were so proud of what Maggie has become.
Kim and Maggie went out for food afterwards. They stopped for Mexican food. Kim texted that they were bringing some back, did I want any?
“No thank you.”
But Kim was already planning to share with me before she got home. She loves cilantro and I don’t and she ordered her burrito without cilantro. When she got home she asked again if I wanted any.
Maybe a bite.
She cut us each a big piece and I came to the table and the three of us sat and ate.
Not hardly the eggroll Kim.
Kim was not the woman I married. We changed each other over the twenty three years we were married.
We had 22 good years and one bad one.
Everyone assumes I mean the year that Elena died. That was a bad year for both of us but not for our marriage.
We went through something no-one should have to go through but I was fortunate to do it with Kim.
Many couples don’t survive such a loss. I don’t know how we did.
No the one bad year was our first year of marriage. It was horrible. We were eldest children, stubborn, and over thirty when we married and we didn’t understand that giving and giving-in can mean winning not losing.
One particularly tense day, Kim announced “I’m going to work. And when I get home I’m going to give you a list of everything I’m unhappy with in this marriage.”
She went to the kitchen to put on her shoes.
Then she came back in the living room and said, “and you can make a list too.”
I think my list saved our marriage.
One of the items on my list mentioned that she rode to work every day with her friend and co-worker Rick. He picked her up in the morning and dropped her off at night. I’ll bet that you say “thank you” every time. I think if I thank you every time you do something for me and you thank me every time I do something for you, we’ll notice how much we do for each other and not stay so angry that we think we’re doing everything and the other person is doing nothing.
Sure, you thank someone else to show your appreciation but you also say thank you to stop and note that other people are doing things for you. It’s so important to pause and feel grateful.
It’s not that we never argued after that. But we only every argued about stupid things and it was never personal.
I hated that when she washed up the kitchen counter with a paper towel she would leave it in the sink to use again later.
She hated that when I knocked down the curtain from the back room to the kitchen I never put it up straight.
Last week she looked up at the curtain rod and looked at me. I looked at it and at her and said, “what?”
She said, trying to be encouraging, “thanks honey. I’m glad that you tried to put the curtain back up, but can’t you see it’s not even?”
I didn’t. I went to adjust it and she said “no, that’s ok, I’ll do it.”
I’d stand with the refrigerator open and say, “I don’t see the hamburgers from last night.”
And she’d say, “you have to bend over and move things out of the way.”
We both tried to do what the other wanted. Some things just weren’t in us.
When we prepared to get married I wrote our service.
I talked to Kim about what was important to her and she looked through the standard vows and said, “I won’t say ‘obey’”
So I told her we could write our own vows. We each came back with a list. She read my list and said “these are really nice. Don’t read mine.”
So I read hers.
She couldn’t think of any so she’d gone to a drugstore and copied down the inside of greeting cards.
On our wedding day she had nowhere to keep the vows so I kept both of ours on index cards in my pocket. As we got close to the part where we were to say the vows I took them out of my pocket.
Kim looked at the top card which was to have the first vow she would make. She looked at the priest and motioned for him to look over. He laughed.
I had added a fake card to the top of the pile that just said “I obey.”
Once the priest saw, I moved that card to the bottom and showed our first real vow.
The vows are on our wedding contract. Our Ketubah.
When I wanted Kim to do something for me, I used to tell her, “you have to, it’s in the Ketubah.”
It never was an argument that worked for me – unlikely that the Ketubah says that a wife must get her husband ice cream on the way home from work. But it was worth a shot.
I reread our vows yesterday. We kept them all – but the first one captures our marriage. I am grateful we were able to live it.
It says –
“We were Friends first. Let us always be friends first. Let us respect each other as we share our thoughts, feelings, and experiences.”
Kim was my best friend.
We talked about everything. We made each other laugh. She gave me perspective.
I would get upset about the little things – a broken glass, a burnt pizza – she’d say “What’s the big deal.”
I’d sulk about something she’d done or said and she say “You’re being ridiculous.”
I don’t know if you know this, but Kim and I were within twenty feet of each other for many years before we ever met.
She worked in an office near where I lived and we went to the same Wendy’s for the baked potato.
My first year of teaching high school here in Ohio was her last year at John Carroll. I would meet many of the other teachers for drinks after work on Friday at the same bar that Kim and her friends would end the week at. They’d look over at the old teachers invading their bar and we’d look at these rowdy kids wishing they were a little quieter.
There was only a year between our ages.
Kim and I were in the same end zone when we were just about Maggie’s age to watch the Browns lose to Oakland on the last play of a bitter cold game. That’s right. I married a woman who saw Red Right 88 from just a few feet away from where I saw it. That same woman and I saw the Indians play in the World Series.
We had a shared background. A common context. A life of similar experiences that let us speak the same language.
We did so much together. We each saw different things but we mainly saw things the same.
We traveled the world together with and without the girls. Once Maggie was in college Kim came with me a lot – she was fun
One of my favorite pictures is of us in Greece last year. We are standing next to each other calf deep in the sea looking out towards the horizon.
Like so many of our adventures, it took both of us to get there.
I got us to that shore but she’s the one that moved us from watching the water from the sand to dipping our feet in the water.
I’ve got so many stories to tell you – but I’ve already taken up so much of your time.
You need to know that Kim never left anywhere fast. So I’m not in as much of a hurry as I might be.
We’d be at her parents house and she’d say, “Daniel’s going to yell at me, we have to leave.”
Her dad would look at me to see if I would get up. I’d shake my head and he’d nod. We both knew we were a good hour from actually leaving.
An hour later of saying goodbye and continuing to chat she’d look at me and say, “well?” like I was holding her up. I’d put on my shoes, say goodbye to everyone and go get the car.
Saturday, she was supposed to meet her friend, also a Kim, for coffee. “Do you mind?” she’d asked.
“Of course not.”
The last time she met this friend for coffee at 10 in the morning, I’d texted Kim at 2 to see what was going on. I texted her at 4. I texted her at 5.
When Kim was with you, she was with you. She didn’t pay attention to her phone. She didn’t have one eye on Facebook. I think one reason so many people here and around the world loved Kim is that she listened to you.
At 515 she texted me, “just saw your texts. Getting ready to leave.” From a ten o’clock coffee meeting.
Kim didn’t like leaving – it’s part of what makes it so hard that she’s left us now.
There are so many different kinds of love. Our life together progressed through many of them.
There was the fresh relationship – everything is new – every touch is electric love.
There’s the over scheduled love – where you’re making sure the kids are where they need to be and you’re there to see them.
There’s the grieving love where you share the loss with the only other person who understands it quite that way.
We were just getting to the good part.
We weren’t settling in to a marriage where we stay together ‘cause we’re used to each other. We were doing more together and enjoying each other’s company more than ever.
She was concerned that as she aged, her skin was changing and getting old. She was still so cute. Sure she was beautiful – but she was cute. She was fun.
She shouldn’t be in the past tense.
When Elena died, Kim and I stood together at the wake as person after person came up to us in tears.
I turned to Kim about an hour in and said “I’m glad we could help them through our loss.”
I didn’t understand loss at the time. It was their loss too. They grieved for Elena and they grieved for us.
At the hospital this weekend, many people thanked me for letting them visit Kim.
I now understood – thanking me for allowing them to share our loss. It was all of our loss.
People asked if I minded if they came in the room to see her.
People asked if I needed time alone with her.
I now understand that this is important. That we as a community share this moment.
The other night my beautiful neighbors gathered in Elena’s garden and shared stories and prayers for Kim.
People have asked what they can do – I’ll tell you.
One of the hardest things about death is that the world moves on.
Please don’t ask how I’m doing.
I’ll either have to lie to you or say something inappropriate. Instead, tell me a story about you and Kim.
After Elena died, Kim and I loved to hear stories from people about Elena. We’d start to cry and they’d say “I’m sorry”
We’d say, “no, no, we love when other people mention her name.” So many people are afraid to talk about the dead to loved ones. I want to hear your Kim stories.
I worry most of all about Maggie. I said to Dave the other day, she doesn’t show me her emotions. She won’t accept help. He said, “of course not. She’s your daughter.”
So I will try to accept help from you. I’m not good at it.
Actually, I find kindness a little annoying. But I will try to accept your hugs and kindness in hopes that Maggie will do the same.
Please, small doses and not too much at a time. I’m new at this.
When you ask me something there may be a pause – I’m so used to saying, “hang on, I have to check with Kimmy.”
She used to look at someone who was hurting, someone who things weren’t going right for and say “poor honey.”
Kim made it clear what she wanted us to do. It didn’t make it easier to actually do it – but it would have been selfish to do otherwise. One of the biggest gifts you can give your loved ones is to make this decision for them.
Don’t say you are too young to do this. Kim was too young.
I told my friend Kevin, “Kim was the fun one. Kim was the reason we got invited places.”
“No,” he said, “she was the reason you got invited back.”
I worry most of all about Maggie. Last week I overheard Maggie telling Kim, “I hate my new glasses.”
Kim said, “take them back. Exchange them. Get a pair you like. You have thirty days.”
Maggie – I wouldn’t have thought to say any of that.
I would have lectured you that you should have made sure before you chose them. I wouldn’t have been mean but I wouldn’t have thought to be so nice.
Your mom knew when to say “it’s no big deal”.
I worry about you so much Maggie.
How do you walk on the ground with confidence when the earth has crumbled beneath your feet twice?
How do you plan your future when you’ve seen how quickly everything can change.
Mom and my last text was about dinner. Did she want burgers or did she want to go out – we hadn’t gone out to dinner for our anniversary yet.
We were going to have burgers.
Kim embraced the moment she was in. She was never in such a rush for the next thing that she missed what was happening now. But she also flossed, paid the bills, and did the things that you might ignore if you only focussed on the current moment and ignored the future.
You don’t have to listen to this advice, Maggie, but I think you have to live your life with two thoughts in your head at once. I think your mom did.
You have to live each day as if it’s your last and you have to live each day as if it isn’t.