As spoken by me, Nic Cottham, at Deb’s funeral:
I’m pulling up my Big Girl’s Pants, as Deb would say. I am also putting on my old lady’s spectacles. Deb used to say that I would need them too one day and she was right, of course.
I could stand here all afternoon and tell you about my beautiful friend, Debbie and only scratch the surface of the amazing, multifaceted woman we loved. But you don’t need me to tell you how uniquely special she was. Many of you have known Debbie far longer than I have. And I am going to leave it to Beverly to share some of her and your tributes to Deb a little later. Suffice it to say that we have been quite overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and admiration for her.
It was an enormous privilege to have Debbie’s love and friendship in my life and an especial privilege to be there at the very end of her life. We were all astonished by the grace, fortitude and the unfaltering wit with which Deb faced such a very difficult illness, the trials it sent and the knowledge that she was going to die so very much sooner than anyone would have hoped.
It gives me great comfort, and I hope it gives you some comfort, to know that, when the time came, Deb died very peacefully and surrounded with love from near and far. As we had promised her, during Deb’s last moments, I held one of her hands and her big brother, Andy, the other. I told her every loving message that was entrusted to me for her and passed on every kiss and gentle hug that was sent. Occasionally she was able to smile and we knew that she had heard us. Yet more people who didn’t know that the time was coming quickly to say goodbye to her loved her deeply and she knew that. I told her that the love we held in our hearts for her and her love for us would never die.
A few days later, we found instructions written by Debbie very shortly before she died including a request that this poem was read on her behalf today. It’s by Gitanjali Ghei and is called “Farewell My Friends”
“It was beautiful as long as it lasted, the journey of my life.
I have no regrets whatsoever save the pain I will leave behind.
Those dear hearts who love and care and the heavy with sleep, ever moist, eyes.
The smile, in spite of a lump in the throat and the strings pulling at the heart and soul.
The strong arms that held me up when my own strength let me down.
Each morsel that I was fed was full of love divine.
At every turning of my life I came across good friends,
Friends who stood by me even when the time raced by.
Farewell, farewell my friends.
I smile and bid you goodbye.
No, shed no tears for I need them not; all I need is your smile.
If you feel sad think of me for that is what I’d like.
When you live in the hearts of those you love, remember then… you never die.”