Notes From a Native Daughter

"Going Home" by Princess Rachella

Finished cleaning the house at 6 p.m. in preparation for my sister-in-law Rachel's arrival tonight.

(Actually, she was supposed to arrive at the Paducah airport at 4 p.m., but she missed her flight out of DC. When she called this morning to let me know the "change in plans" - that she would now be arriving at 8:30 p.m. - I chastised her for "keeping me up past my bedtime!")

Anyway, figured I'd surf the net and kill some time.

Clicked the link for Rachel's blog "Notes From a Native Daughter", not really expecting to see anything new since I had already checked in the wee hours this morning...and she WAS traveling today. WRONG!

DAMN...for all those who said it would get better, one question: "WHEN?"

Drank a couple of beers after school today to steel myself for what is sure to be an emotional reunion...for the both of us. Wanted to make sure the alcohol was out of my system before taking off for the airport.

Now I've got a different problem...driving while blinded by tears. Unfortunately, I can't compound the problem by "crying in my beer" least not until we are safely home!

Thank God, Rachel has such a good (and wise) friend in Simone...someone who suffered a great loss, but found comfort.

The only way that I, myself, got through the dreaded visitation and funeral was when I entered the doors of Barkett's funeral home, walked up to the casket, looked down and realized immediately...Julie was not there! Yes, the "chrysalis" was there, but Julie's spirit had broken longer constrained by this earth. Julie's spirit had taken wing!

Well, it's time to go pick up Rachel. While I'm away, I'll let Rachel introduce you to her good friend, Simone...

"Going Home" by Princess Rachella

I'm leaving for National Airport soon, headed back to my hometown of Cairo, Illinois. Until recently, I'd spent a lot of time building up for an emotional collapse during this trip. I just knew going back to my sister's house, paying my respects at her grave, seeing what's left of our hometown, would overwhelm me.

But my friend Simone came to the rescue last Friday night. We got together for a girlfriend's night out, and as usual, poured our hearts out over great wine and food. It's amazing...whenever I'm with Simone, and any of my other sister-heart friends, it's like a faucet gets turned on, and I can spill whatever's in my soul, and feel totally safe and respected doing it.

To know Simone is to be instantly enveloped by the good graces of New Orleans charm, hospitality and downright bodacious good fun. Her accent could woo the bees from the flowers. She totally resembles Bette Davis in the movie, "Jezebel," with her waspish waist, strawberry blonde hair and fierce intelligence and strength of will. ( The resemblance ends there....she is NOT a selfish, conniving, manipulative bitch like Miss Ju-LEE of the movie.)

Anyway, Simone knows the kind of pain I'm feeling. When we met for lunch nearly 10 years ago, I must confess that initially, I thought this high-fashion New York PR maven was going to be about as deep as a pane of glass and snobby to boot. She had just moved to DC to handle PR for a restaurant group, and I was writing about that group's flagship restaurant for the airline magazine I was freelancing for. We started off with polite banter, but I found myself quite eager to get that lunch over with.

4 hours later, Simone and I had bonded like Crazy Glue. At the time, Julie was going through one of her more serious health challenges, and I was worried sick. That's when Simone and I got to talking about life, and death, and what it all means. Then she shared that she had lost her sister and mother within 6 months of each other, both in tragic car accidents. I was absolutely stunned by her stories; at the time, noone in my immediate family had died, and I couldn't conceive how someone could talk about death in the family with such serene poise.

And though it's been more than 10 years, four more restaurants and a husband and two kids later for Simone, she says still feels the same sort of urgent loss. Whenever she looks at her two apple-cheeked cherub sons, her heart can't help but long for her mother to see them. She loves her brother, but she can't help wishing her sister was here, too.

During our first marathon lunch, I was convinced that I would go completely insane if I had to live in a world without Julie. In fact, I just knew my heart would stop, and they'd just have to push me on top of her coffin and cover the both of us up. I couldn't understand how Simone kept going, how she was able to function so beautifully.

But there she was last Friday night, convincing me that I would be able to handle going home. She even made me believe that I could visit Julie's grave without collapsing. That's because she said, simply, "Julie is not in that grave. Julie is everywhere there's something beautiful. Julie is in you. You can go to the cemetery because you want to pay your respects, but you're not going there to see her. You'll take her with you when you leave."

The moment I heard those words, I knew I'd be okay. Simone had already proved to me ten years ago that you can survive inconceivable tragedy. Why shouldn't I believe that I could successfully navigate the flood of emotion and pain that's been swirling around my ankles the past few months, while I braced myself for this particular journey?

So, I'm going home to see my dear brother-in-law Ron, and my brothers Fred and John, and Julie's friends, and the people of Cairo. But as Simone told me, I'm not going home to see Julie. I can see her every time I look in the mirror. I can feel her every time I smile when I think of some memory we shared. I can BE her every time I do something kind and loving for someone else.

So that's the game plan. I'll let you know how things turn out.

Posted by Princess Rachella at 7:00 AM