Erika, with ease and grace

I often write when I am at my happiest – to savior the moment – or at my saddest – in order to heal.

My heart needs a lot of healing today.

My dear friend, Erika, passed away last night, quietly, softy, painlessly, gently, surrounded by love & music. I wish you could have known her. Her earthly body is gone forever, but her spirit lives on and I’d like to introduce you to Her.

There are people who come into your life & change it forever. They have the ability to make everyone around them better, simply be being the bright shining light they are. My sweet friend Erika is one of those people.

I’ve watched her navigate her cancer journey with a level of grace that is hard to comprehend…except that it’s not…because she is Erika, who does all things with ease & grace.

Even during her darkest times, she used her cancer diagnoses as a way to inspire, teach & heal others. Because that’s who & what she was at her core: a teacher, a spiritual mentor, a light to show us how to live…especially so, in the face of death.

I first met Erika over 20 years when we worked together at a private elementary school in SF. It was my first job out of college. I was the Director of Admissions. Ericka was the music teacher. She was pure joy. A ball of sunshine & smiles who gave the best, most heartfelt hugs every time you saw her. She radiated warmth, joy & compassion. Her light nor her mood never dimmed.

As humans, even on our best days, we all have our moments where we lose a bit of grace because that’s sort of how we are built. But not Erika. She never lost her cool, her patience, her composure, her smile. She had a pure soul, devoid of even a momentary flickering of snark, gossip, pettiness, selfishness, hubris, materialism, conceit, or greed. I honestly have never ever in my life met another person like her in that way.

I always felt inspired to be the best version of myself when I was around her. But inevitably, just because…life & humans…I failed, always succumbing to those pesky perils of personal foibles. It’s not easy to be perfect. I’d say it was impossible. But I know it’s not, because…Erika.

How lucky her students were to have been taught, mentored & guided by her. How lucky were we ALL were to witness her example of what it means to truly be a person who, at all times, in all ways, big and small, was the very best of what we can only aspire to be, as humans.

I’m telling you, when your time comes to leave this earth, you’ll want & hope that people will be speaking about you the way Erika’s tribe is right now. I’m reading posts from people on FB, who only met her once – just one time – writing paragraph upon paragraph about her.

That’s how potent her magic was. That’s the sign that you have lived life the way it is supposed to have been lived; to have touched people the way angels do; to have left this planet so much better than you found it. Many of us talk about doing that. Erika actually DID it.

When the universe created Erika, when the ingredients were being mixed, they added an extra dollop of fairy dust to her creation. She had something special, something that made her better than the rest of us. That is not me being overly dramatic or extra emotional, practices I admittedly have a propensity for. It’s simply the truth. Erika was better than the rest of us. Or maybe I should just speak for myself. She was a much better person than I. Even on my very best day. Fact.

I don’t believe that one person’s life is worth more than any other. But I DO believe there are a select few among us who walk this earth with a bit more grace than others. Grace. I keep coming back to that word. The writer in me wants to find a few synonyms but I feel it just needs to be repeated. Over and Over. Amazing grace. That’s how she lived. And it’s also how she died.

My heart breaks for her wife, her life & musical partner, Lisa, and all of those who knew & loved her. We are all part of her tribe now. Many of us strangers until now. I feel our collective pain via posts on social media, but oh how deeply I feel our collective love. How lucky we were to have known her. How lucky this universe was to have had her.

Maybe she was too good for this world, this cold hard world. Maybe we just didn’t truly deserve her, didn’t do enough to earn the privilege of being graced with her presence into her old age.

But she wouldn’t want us to take that cynical view. She’d want us to celebrate life…hers & ours.

Dear sweet friend, thank you for the song of life you shared so generously with us all. We are all better humans for having known you. Rest well, my love. With ease and grace, rest well & sing on. xo Lulu

 

Inked by Sade

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I still can’t believe I got a tattoo! It’s not something I ever really thought about but in the past few years I felt like I wanted one & I knew that it would be music related & it was gonna be Sade related because if music is my religion, then Sade is my God.

“By Your Side” is the name of one of her songs. It might surprise you to know that it’s not necessarily my favorite song of hers but it DOES represent my connection to her music in a powerful way.

(Before we start, can we just acknowledge how weird a wrist looks out of context? SO weird!)

It was the fall of 2000. I had just come home after a bumpy day at work. I even remember what I was wearing (green cargo pants, a pink tank top, jeans jacket, green striped tote bag). Normally when I come home I immediately kick off my shoes, drop my keys & sunglasses in their proper little spot (because I am uber Type-A & organized that way), put down my purse & turn on the TV (terrible habit, I know).

But this day, for some reason, I went into the kitchen & turned on the radio. I NEVER do that. I still had my sunglasses on, purse still on my shoulder. The station was set to KBLX, The Quiet Storm. The DJ was saying, “Sade’s first release in 8 years” & then a song started to play.

I literally dropped to my knees in the middle of my kitchen & started to cry. The instrumental intro to the song started to play. I started to cry because I knew that soon, when this album was released, I would have 12-13 new songs from an artist whose art affects me so deeply; songs that would give me everything I need when I need it. I don’t really know how to explain it. There are actually singers whose voices I would rather have if I could sing, than hers. But her music moves me like no other.

I actually said out loud to the empty room, “Sade, WHY do you make us wait so long for your music? We need you by our side”

And then she started to sing the song:

“You think I’d leave your side baby
You know me better than that
You think I’d leave you down when you’re down on your knees
I wouldn’t do that”

I sobbed. As usual it was as if she knew my heart; knew exactly what I was going through. There I was, on my knees, questioning her, begging for her.

She continued to sing. The last line was “I’ll be there by your side baby”

The DJ came on the radio & said, “There it is. “By Your Side” by Sade.

Well, I just about passed out. I mean, she was LITERALLY reading my mind, my heart, my emotions. She was reading my heart & as always, knew exactly what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. There she was, being my favorite artist in all the ways that move me.

When the cd was released, I had preordered it & picked it up at the record store (remember those??). I had a whole ritual planned: I was going to start listening the CD on my Discman (lol) the minute I walked out of the store & walk home & just enjoy the music with the backdrop of San Francisco all round me. The walk home was not a short one (From the Embarcadero to Cow Hollow for your SF peeps). It was not a walk that one takes just on a whim. It was a long walk, but walking up & down the hills of my hometown on a brisk clear night, with Sade serenading, is pretty much my idea of heaven.

So I walked & I listened. I few times I stopped to take in the view. And because I am super Type A & like clarity & order & finite beginnings and ends, I started to wonder if the CD would play all the way till I got home or if it would stop sooner. Btu I didn’t really think too much about it. I just walked & listened. And as I put the key in my front door, at that very moment as I opened the front door, the very last note of the very last song faded away. I don’t know what you call that, but I call it a sign…yet again…that Sade knows. She just knows.

“By Your Side” has become a little mantra I say to myself when I need encouragement or a reminder that everything is going to be ok.

Cause here is the thing:

The thing is, there is ALWAYS something or someone by your side…to get you through, to give you encouragement or tough love or a pat on the back. It might be your faith, or your bestie, or your lover. It might be your favorite spot in nature or your much loved piece of prose or a warm cuddle from a fur baby. And it might even be a song…or the title of a song. And it might even by YOU, by your side. In most cases, it’s a combination of all of the above.

So when I started to think about getting a tattoo, something inspired by Sade was the only option & this was the obvious choice. On the inside of my wrist (where is can be easily covered by my watch for those times when a tattoo might not be appropriate) where I can see it, glance at it, stare at it, enjoy it. And I HAVE! I have really looked at it & focused on it & allowed it to do what I hoped it would do: give me strength & courage & faith. Sometimes I wake up in the morning & my arm is up on the pillow & the tattoo is the first thing I see & it comforts me.

It’s been almost two months now. And I have no regrets…which is a good thing…cause it’s gonna be by my side forever! xo lulu