Dearly beloved, thank you for coming today, friends, colleagues, and well-wishers. Thank you Lyle, and Holly, for putting on such a marvelous spread. I just wanted to share a few words.
Let us not forget that we are gathered here to remember a good woman. Maybe one of the best. Perhaps THE best. She was old Florida. She was an artist. She was beautiful.
(Speech notes to self: Enunciate your words. Do not mumble. Make sure your fly is up.)
You know, it’s weird. When I was first asked to say something about my friend, Sherry Sandquist, for her celebration-of-life service, I couldn’t come up with words to say.
Which is remarkable inasmuch as you’re looking at a guy who has diarrhea of the mouth. When I was a kid, my mother said I could talk the paint off a fire hydrant.
On my first day of second grade, for example, the teacher had to move me around the classroom six times.
She later told my parents that “Sean is a very nice boy, but his mouth never stops moving.”
I was an average kid. A straight-C student. But when it came to incessant talking I was without peer. Each one of my childhood report cards—every single one—explained that “Sean talks too much.”
And yet I am unable to find anything to say about one of my best friends for her final memorial.
Namely, because where would you start? What do you say about your friend while her whole family is staring at you? Where do you find the words?
Here you are. You’re behind a microphone. Your hands are clammy. Your chest starts to pound. And you’re about to crumble beneath the limelight.
Then, suddenly, you recall something the doctor said in third grade. He said you have a condition called “vasovagal syncope.” A prevailing medical condition wherein episodes of extreme nervousness can cause you to black out and lose control of important bodily sphincters.
One of the classic triggers for this condition is public speaking.
So what do you talk about at the mic? How do you approach this speech? Do you tell the story about how you met Sherry?
It’s not a very interesting story. Not much to tell, really. You were 20-some years old. A dropout. A loser. You enrolled in community college. You were trying to get your life together, but it wasn’t working.
You were having panic attacks. You were suffering from some extreme mental health issues. You were about to have a nervous breakdown after years of past trauma, suicide, and a hard boyhood came to the surface.
So you did something out of character. You contacted a therapist. The only therapist you knew, the guy who went to your church and smelled like Aqua Velva.
You called him up. You asked for help.
But this guy refused to take you on as a patient, instead he welcomed you into his home. He made you a friend. He made you family. And then you met her. His wife. She was older than you. She was smart. She was funny.
Her name was Sherry.
And that’s pretty much the story.
And where does this speech go now? Do I tell all these funeral visitors how this woman invited me into her home and cooked me fish soup? Do I tell all these guests that, typically, fish soup is a culinary concoction that smells bad enough to gag a goat?
But amazingly, this woman’s soup was delicious. Which blew my mind. So I went back for seconds, thirds and fourths. And only after my fifth bowl did I recall that overeating is yet another classic trigger of vasovagal syncope.
How can I tell everyone this? How, I ask? This woman was more than just a friend. She took me under her wings. She treated me like a son. This woman insisted that I was special. And the heck of it was, I half believed her.
This woman cut my hair in her kitchen every three weeks. She took me to Mount Dora, Florida, to a large antique fair and she convinced me to spend $300 on antique Philco radio, just because I liked it.
Do I tell people at the visitation about the time I decided to take up bike riding, and about how she gave me a bicycle with a street-value of a few thousand dollars?
What does one do here? How do you make a speech about a deceased angel?
Maybe you should tell everyone about how she bought your first book. A pitiful book with little literary value, and even less substance. But to her it was touched by Midas.
Or maybe you should tell everyone how she sold this book at her store, compelling anyone who could fog up a mirror to purchase one.
Do you tell these people how she is the reason you are what you are (whatever that is)? Should you tell everyone how she changed your life forever? How she made you feel valuable? Do you tell the people how she gave you a second chance at your own life?
How she bolstered your confidence? How she gave you wings? How she helped you find what you were looking for?
How she cared? How she laughed? How she spoke? How she was one of the few who loved you, even when you didn’t love yourself?
Well. Sometimes I think my teachers were right. I talk too much.