Today is three months since Allison died. I have a lot of things that I want to say, but I find myself deleting them almost as quickly as I type them. Nothing seems to match what I'm feeling. Being at a loss for words is pretty new to me, and it's the kind of frustration that I usually would take to her to ask what she thinks.
One of the things I've done today is go through the memories and stories that people shared on a form I made before her memorial service. My intent then was to share those ideas with people who attended the service, but like a lot of things, it didn't work out the way I planned it.
So instead of recapping the ups and downs of where I find myself personally on a day like this, here are a few of the memories that friends and family shared about Allison around the time of her memorial service.
I've excerpted and anonymized them in case people would prefer their names not be published online.
Allison was so absent of pretense that she moved through the world in a way that was uncommonly pure, open, loving and vulnerable. I never asked her if she thought she was remarkable. I assume she would have said “no.” I would have disagreed. I hope one of her many abiding gifts is that some of her stardust will linger, guide, and bend me toward her unashamed and reverent posture toward the beauty and gifts that are, always, present.
Allison was the first person that demonstrated to me that you could be a Christian and socially progressive--be a Christian and love gay people, care about justice and rights of all people, and also love Jesus. For me, in 2002 in the South, it was kind of earth-shaking. So now, as someone who manages the finances for my church and services as a community justice organizer on behalf of the same church, I feel grateful for my conversations with Allison hunched in our tiny windowless office as we ate our leftovers.
Quiet and demure Al surprised us from time to time: I will never hear Cardi B without seeing Al dancing on the dock in Three Lakes. Intermixed with many joys, our friend-family has helped each other through many sorrows. Throughout these impossibly tough times, I have been so grateful to Matt and Al for their openness and honesty and grace, for letting us in and allowing us to feel helpful and connected even as we’ve been so powerless to do the one thing we know they longed for – making Al healthy.
Allison has been a guidepost on parenting for me. Seeing Allison parent her kids out of love and gentleness showed me the kind of mom I’d like to be, gentle and kind and filled with adoration for her children. Allison’s warmth for others, especially my family, has been so meaningful to watch. She has shared marriage advice (men never pick up their socks) and parenting advice (it’s hard now and it gets easier but it’s ok to cry now) that has stuck with me.
Allison appreciated and sought the best in each day, and I was so impressed by and proud of her for making this extraordinary effort to witness to the importance of human dignity during these fraught political times. She gave fully, and I am so thankful for her goodness, commitment, and witness—whether marching for truth and decency, or for loving and serving her family and community so well.
I remember so many conversations with Al, ranging from the really big, important questions (parenting, racial politics) to the even more important (tabloid news). Al was in for all of it. As someone who tends to rush to quick and passionate opinions, I appreciated Allison's more considered approach, which always tended to the generous - she looks at things from multiple perspectives, slow to judge or consider people 'wrong', even if she disagrees.
Allison may not realize how much she taught me just by her example of a good person. The years I have known her seem too short of time. But I do know her, and I love the person she is. The small interactions that seem insignificant are what I cherish most.
I met Allison shortly after she started treatment. Her smile, quiet wisdom, grace and love for her family were apparent from day 1. I am grateful for her friendship through support group and beyond. I have been rereading her blog post "Heart". As Allison wrote, "I hope that my open heart will lead me to the next loving step in my journey."