Published on: July 18, 2014by Kevin Coupe
When I launched MNB, more than 13 years ago, I wrote and talked a lot about the "MNB community." I wasn't being being arrogant, at least not purposefully so. I really believed in the ability of the internet to help foster and nurture community, and I hoped that this would be something that MNB could do … even as I started out with a readership of just a hundred or so people culled from what we used to call a Rolodex.
Today, I am overwhelmed. With the death of my younger sister from cancer and my reflections about her here on MNB have come so many emails and old-fashioned notes that it is almost impossible for me to absorb. The vast majority have come from people I have never met in person, and who don't know me, save for what they've learned from MNB. Still, they have sent messages that have ranged from the simple ("I'm praying for your sister and your family," and "my condolences") to long messages about hope and love and sharing of pain. I've heard from many people whose lives have been touched by cancer, sometimes through the death of a loved one and sometimes because they are fighting the disease even as they sat at the keyboard. It has been extraordinary. And humbling. And yes, Eye-Opening.
With good reason, we see and hear and read about a lot of the bad things that the internet can enable. Violent images, extreme passions and ugly discourse that do nothing to raise the level of thought and feeling among our friends and neighbors and fellow citizens. Sometimes, it is enough to foster a level of despair, as if we're circling the drain, unable to break free from the negative currents that envelop us.
I'm here to tell you that today, at least, I feel no such despair. I feel like I have an abundance of friends - and not just in the Facebook sense. I feel like when a community is created, the members of that community respond when one of their friends is in pain.
Good feelings matter. Words matter. Community matters. And I am lifted by all of these things, and by you.
Now, can I tell you one more favorite story about Debbie? (It is one that I shared when I spoke at her memorial service, but I did not include it when I wrote about her earlier this week.)
The year was 1974, and I was preparing to go off to Los Angeles to study at Loyola Marymount University. My family was taking me to the airport on a hot, late summer evening … and when I say "family," I mean everybody. For reasons I cannot recall, everybody was going … my parents, my brothers and sisters, even assorted aunts and uncles and my grandmother. It was like I was going off to war, and nobody expected me to return. There were so many people that we had to go in at least two cars.
Here's what I remember as if it were yesterday. At the airport, only one of the cars got there on time - luckily, the car in which I was riding. The other got stuck in traffic, and I was really worried about leaving for California without saying goodbye to everyone. But Debbie was in the car that I was in, and as we waited at the gate - back in the days when people could actually walk you to the gate - and I paused, Debbie, clearly and without hesitation, looked at me and said, "Kevin, get on the plane."
When I paused yet again, she repeated: "Kevin, get on the plane."
I used to think she just wanted to get rid of me, and maybe she did. But I also think that she was clear-eyed about what needed to be done, and unambiguous about expressing it.
I'm going to miss that.
Debbie was a great wife, mother, and sister, as well as a great friend and woman. I think that she would appreciate the note that was sent to me by one member of the MNB community, who simply quoted Dr. Seuss:
"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened!!!"
- KC's View: