“… and another one gone! Another one bites the dust!”
The music blared through the speakers at the funeral home, as I walked back inside the crowded room.
Dawn’s memorial service was standing-room only, and I ended up listening to the tributes from outside the building.
She was just 40 years old, the mother of a three-year-old daughter, and she was gone. Cancer. But, even in death, Dawn Kristof managed to make me smile. Who requests that Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” be played during their funeral processional? Dawn. That’s who.
The thing is, Dawn was not a big jokester – at least not during the brief time that I knew her. She was one of those people who had a mega-watt smile, one that made it nearly impossible not to smile in return.
The last time I saw her, she was thin and waifish – yet, she did not appear to be frail. To me, she seemed powerful. She was a woman in a place of acceptance. She was a woman at peace … and I was baffled.
None of this is fair, I remember thinking, She will miss her daughter’s whole life. Her daughter will miss that smile, and that sweet soul.
Another one gone.
Dawn saw herself in perspective to the rest of this big world full of people, any of whom could be cancer’s next target. Not a “Why me?” but rather, “Why not me?” Maybe I misread her. Maybe we were not close enough for her to disclose her fear to me. Maybe I didn’t give her the chance. Maybe she just wanted to live her last moments as if she were, well, dying. Isn’t that what we always preach?
Live today as if it was your last. It might be. None of us really knows for sure. What would you want your loved ones to do when they think of you? Cry? Or smile every time “Another One Bites the Dust” pops up on a classic rock station?
I’ve been teaching a journaling class at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. We have a riot! We talk about relationships and how confusing they truly are. We talk about life. We talk about death. And yep, we plan funerals.
When I told the class about Dawn’s funeral including the song by Queen, there were many grand smiles of approval. I heard a “Yes” from the group. How can people who have faced or are facing death smile at such a thing? I guess we answer that question with the question itself. There is nothing funny about death, nor, from what I’ve been told, is there anything to smile about when a doctor tells you that your time is running out.
The thing is, when you know you have very little time left, suddenly it becomes such a luxury, that you want to make every bit of it count.
I have also learned that there are so many things we – the dying, the living, those left behind – waste a lot of time thinking about saying, rather than just saying them.
Another one bites the dust? A song and a smile. I could allow myself to be confused, offended or even ignore the musical choices my friend included in her final wishes, and revel in my own anger at how unfair it all is.
But, I am now convinced that the infamous riff, accompanied by Freddie Mercury’s super-human vocals, was Dawn’s little gift; a message, if you will. “Smile when you think of me. It’s okay.”
And so I will, Dawn Kristof; I will smile when I think of you, but there will be tears in my eyes.