We gathered in Seattle on Saturday, May 21st to celebrate the life of our beloved exmearden at Saint Therese Church.
There was a sea of orange flowers, all from you.
More photos below:
I wanted to take close-up photos of the sender cards at the request of certain Kossacks but the gift cards had been removed before I got there.
And finally Nurse Kelley ordered a large bouquet of red roses, Kris's favorite flower:
People are starting to arrive:
There were about 75 people who finally arrived, including 12 Kossacks.
The service began with Kris's older brother giving us a chronology of Kris's life:
Emotions were still raw for all the speakers and it was difficult at times for many to finish.
This is Kris's sister in law:
This is Michael, Kris's dear friend who personally took care of her the last few months of her life:
Another close friend and co-worker of Kris's who had some very funny stories to tell about her:
Kris's three daughters, Kylie, Katie and Kyra spoke next and recited her favorite poem Jabberwocky:
A slide show played with lovely photos of Kris's life:
The Daily Kos contingency was next. Meteor Blades was there to represent Markos and the Front Pagers. Many of the previous speakers mentioned how important Daily Kos was to Kris, particularly at the end. Her daughters described how ecstatic she was to receive our community quilt and how she relied on us for emotional support in the end. MB told the crowd more about Daily Kos and how Kris was selected to be a featured writer.
Meteor Blades and I recited occams hatchet's diary The starlight formerly known as exmearden. MB read occam's voice and I read exmearden's.
Kitsap River spoke about adopting three of Kris's beloved dogs and how at Kitsap's reserved table at NN11 there would be a place setting and empty chair there for Kris, with her photo and a book for people to sign that will be given to Kris's daughters later.
I read a tribute written by Nurse Kelley:
I explained to the group how Nurse Kelley had been intensely involved in Kris's care the last few months of her life and how she was available to Michael 24/7 by phone. Michael nodded in agreement.
From Nurse Kelley:
Kris would have loved this gathering ... and I hope she’s seeing it. When Kylie called me to tell me about today, her grief was so raw, still so palpable, so contagious, even, that I had no words for her. I confess I was afraid to open the door to my heart marked “Kris”, for I knew what lay there. It has been easier to hide than to grieve.
Kris would not approve. She knew that the only way to grieve is to walk through the fiery pit of it. I still have no words of my own, but I have some from your Mama, she of such wisdom and grace on the page:
There is no "good" way to handle the tide of grief and loss – and sometimes you don't recognize it as it washes over you. Grief ebbs out with the current, but you turn your back and there are waves that will wash in. I think there is no high ground, no safe refuge, no future time safe from grief, no matter how you insulate and think you've got the tide figured out. There are certain high tides that wash over the breaktide of any shore.
In my mind, all forms of grief are complicated and meaningful. Grief implies that you had at least more than a moment of passing care, a bit more tolerance, perhaps a previously unplumbed wealth of deep emotion and feeling for what was lost, who was lost. Wrap your hands and your heart around your grief and don’t reject it. If you have a way into grief, you can find a way out of grief. And you can find value in the grace of caring and memory.
Grief polishes your heart.
Each of us has this ability to make a choice inside of us on how we present to an issue, but we are too often swayed away from our natural motions by what we perceive as external, uncontrollable events. And that's not really helpful for handling things like this....
It's not the event, it's how you select your tools that sets the tone and sometimes the outcome. Sometimes not. There are things we can always control and things we can't, but the one sure thing we can do is to try and grasp a beast by the throat and hold on as long as possible.
We are, none of us, guaranteed a single fucking thing, though we may think we are, on a day-to-day basis, and I'll gladly grab the joy I see around me, the joy I have, the fun that I can generate, the tears, too. I'll grab it all and stuff it into my heart and damn the torpedoes.
Along with her wise words about grief and life, I found a passage and a quote (Lord, your Mama loved her quotes!) that help explain why she wanted no funeral:
I'm not so into visiting cemeteries or places where people (even my loved ones who have died) are buried. It has nothing to do with fear or phobia, grief or sadness or denial or...whatever (as my teens would say).
I just don't see them there. Them. Those who've passed or died, or left us, or moved on. I've locked their essence in my heart, their voices indexed inside my brain. Their energy remains in the world, within the shared memories of those who remember them; their imprint on the world now is separate from the existence of their corporeal form.
What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
I ended our Daily Kos portion by saying that our community is very caring and strong. I told them about the massive response many of Kris's diaries received and after she left us our community was still very interested in Kris's family and celebration event.
Our speeches were very well received. Many people came up to us afterward with tears in their eyes and thanking us for our words. It was completely rewarding and the effort to be there was worth it.
I asked Dem in the Heart of Texas and Land of Enchantment to write tributes for me to read. They were both very close to Kris. However, we ran out of time to read them since the family provided so much content. These tributes are lovely and I'm glad to provide them here for you, a much larger audience. I'll also send this diary link to the daughters so they will be able to read these tributes.
From Dem in the Heart of Texas:
Due to contracted performances this weekend, I am not able to be with you today to celebrate the life of Kris Froland. I have asked Neeta to stand in for me.
Like many others, my acquaintance with Kris began as a virtual one. Through unhappy circumstance, we were both bereaved – in my case, my mother, and in hers, her sister – in the spring of 2007. The lyrical, literary nature of her written expressions of grief online touched my soul in a way that provided deep comfort. I felt I had found a soul-mate – someone who really “got” what I was feeling and could express it in a way that eluded me. The comfort I got from reading and writing about grief with her was the genesis behind the grief series we started on Daily Kos, which continues still.
Despite being a stage performer, I can be rather shy in person – definitely not the type to go to conventions with people I have never met in the flesh. However, when I found out Kris was coming to Austin for Netroots Nation, I decided then and there that I had to meet this person who had really saved me in the darkest days of grief. She was everything I had expected: that amazing “voice” in her writing had a warm, earthy counterpart in the flesh. Her laugh was constant and contagious, and that afternoon remains one of my fondest memories of Kris.
When she got her diagnosis of cardiac angiosarcoma, after almost a year of feeling ill, I was devastated, as I’m sure all of you were. But what I loved and admired so much was how she took charge of it. She researched, she studied, she never gave herself false hope, but she empowered herself with everything she could possibly do to prolong her life. She took such joy from her daughters and grandson, and she needed to be with them as long as she possibly could. When she finally came to Texas for her surgery, I had a bad cold and couldn’t see her until a couple weeks later, though we had a poignant phone conversation the night before. Just two weeks after the surgery, she actually came to a performance of mine, and the next day we sat in a Starbucks together for hours – sharing ourselves in the way that one does when everything is distilled down to its essence. There was no small talk with her – we both spoke plainly about what she faced and about all that was in our hearts (figuratively, and, in her case, literally!). There was no shortage of laughter.
We shared one final visit during her last trip to Texas. It was clear that this was somewhat of a last-ditch attempt to be in control of her declining health. I was angry that she had been forced to come back to remedy a stupid medical error that was keeping her from the treatment she needed, but I was also delirously happy to have one more visit with Kris. She and Michael and I shared so much laughter over tapas and sangria and chocolate – one could almost forget the procedure scheduled for the next day, and the greater doom that hung over everything.
Kris was about living each minute; she was about expressing truth in the most beautiful means possible; she was about laughter; and she was about love. To her daughters: I have to tell you that when she spoke of you, which was often, her words conveyed deep love and care and pride and concern for your futures without her. I hope that you will at some point be able to read her diaries online, which I consider to be works of art, and which helped and attracted so many kindred spirits to her. Even though I spent only three visits in her company during her life, I count her among the very best friends I will ever have.
From Land of Enchantment:
Four years ago, Paul Delahanty created a scholarship program for Netroots Nation (then Yearly Kos.) He invited me to receive one of 17 scholarships that year. The next year, in 2008, DFA took it over for Netroots Nation in Austin, Texas. They planned for 9 scholarships, but to give something back in thanks for the trip to Chicago, I coordinated a fundraising effort to up the numbers. Ultimately, it got up to 30.
Kris, under her screen name exmearden, applied. But not until the last day. She said it was because her daughters pushed her to do so, and I'm so glad they did. (Thanks!!!) Coming in so late, her application could easily have been overlooked. But DFA asked me for recommendations. Everyone I recommended got a scholarship, and maybe I can claim credit for Kris's award. Or not. At any rate, it was terrific thing all the way around.
I was still reading her username as "ex-mearden" and couldn't help but wonder what a mear-den was. Why anyone would want to broadcast to the world that they used to be one? Once that was straightened out, she became "Exme", and has remained so in my thinking even long after I came to know her as Kris. Such is the world of online handles.
I was only one of many friends Kris grew closer to in Austin. I had my birthday that weekend, and spent the evening in a bar with Kris and "occams hatchet" and the head of the College Democrats from Idaho State U in Pocatello and a few others. We talked and laughed into the wee hours. About nothing and about everything. (With Kris, they're both kinda the same.)
As with most everyone else, Kris's written expression resonated with me. I won't belabor it, except to say that her ability to spin mundane everyday details into something universal and timeless was a delight. I encourage her daughters to read and re-read her writings in the years to come. The grandson she had the gift to meet (and other grandchildren to come) will know and love her partly through the words she left behind.
Kris gave me great advice which helped change the course of my own life: Grab all the joy you can.
Two summers ago, I traveled to the northeast to visit my own cancer-afflicted mother. I drove, bringing my own best-friend dog along to offer mom a little "pet therapy." I contacted another of our blog community who lived along the route, saying "let's have coffee." We got along famously, and I was invited to stop back on my way west. I talked to Kris about it, feeling like something big had arrived out of the blue, taking some deep breaths and wondering what to do about it. She said: Grab all the joy you can. No excuses, just do it! She was so right. I kept postponing the final leg of the return trip, spending over a week in Nashville. Ultimately, I "ran away with the circus" and now spend most of my time in the music world in Nashville with Hobbs.
And so, like when Kris took the trip to Austin, good things come from taking chances. Doing the bold and improbable and living it all without holding back. Having problems or limitations, no matter. Make the most of every day you've got. Kris has set that example as well as anyone ever could.
I was back in Las Vegas just last weekend for Hobbs' daughter's wedding. I recalled hanging with Kris there last summer. While there, she got word she was OKed for her heart surgery, describing the procedure in detail. In her own grounded, matter-of-fact style. The best way to judge a person is not so much the hand they're dealt in the game of life, but how they play it. Kris was as good as it gets that way.
It's said that a person isn't really gone until everyone who remembers them has died. Much as she is missed, much as I wish we could talk again, Kris will also remain amongst us. Her daughters, especially, will miss her. To them: She's in your memories, and you'll find her wisdom and advice and love and quirks arising, unbidden, time and time again. Cherish that: Even though she's gone from the physical world, everything she did to make you who you are will stay with you.
And, no matter what, follow her wise advice to "grab all the joy you can." There is no better way to honor her memory.
I'd like to feature all the Kossacks who attended:
Meteor Blades and bwren:
While chatting with bwren before the service she mentioned being there to help the daughters. bwren is a stranger to the girls but because of how our community operates she stepped up and helped when needed. I asked bwren to write a little bit about it:
In reading Nurse Kelly's diary about Kris' memoriaI I realized that my proximity to the church might might offer me a way to help out - the job thing that would make it easier for me to attend. I wrote to Kelly and she put me in contact with Kris' daughter, Kylie, who was organizing the memorial. The florist who put together the gorgeous dK orange arrangements had arranged to deliver them to the church, but Kylie still needed someone to transport the red roses. I just happen to have access to a van.
So Saturday morning I drove up to Kylie's, we loaded tons of roses into the van and I drove them back to the church.
I need to say that Kris' daughters are beautiful, confident young women. She did well in raising them, and they will carry her with them as they move through their lives. My heart goes out to them. They are too young to have lost their mother.
I'm so proud to be a part of this community.
Meet princesspat and Mr. princesspat:
Kitsap River and Charles Curtis-Stanley:
A Dark Evil Omen and Strange New World:
Suz in Seattle and Rickeagle:
myself; navajo and N in Seattle:
Here is Meteor Blades signing Kris's guest "book:"
Here we are at Kris's favorite pub for a buffet provided by the daughters:
From left to right: Meteor Blades, N in Seattle, princesspat, Mr. princesspat, Charles Curtis-Stanley, Kitsap River, Rickeagle and Suz in Seattle
doingbusinessas introducing himself to his fellow Kossacks:
While rehearsing the various pieces I was to read I would often choke up with tears. At the event I went to a special place in my head to prevent that. I had it together for the most part but I lost it at the end while taking this photo and touching this little guy's cheek:
Kylie, Ashton (Kris's grandson) and Joey
I'm breaking down again as I write this. I'm glad Kris got to hold him and kiss his sweet face. I'm sad he won't know her. As a grandmother myself I know how precious grandbabies are.
I'm glad that I was available to Kris at the end and I'm glad I could be there to talk about how important she was to our community. I'm proud of our community and that so many of us could rally, get flowers there and actually attend the celebration.
This is one of the finest examples of what we have built here at Dkos.