She’s being followed by a moonshadow

“I’m dying.”

That’s what my dear friend Lynn said when she called me on the last Monday in February. She had just returned home from a visit with her oncologist who had given her the shattering news that her already grim prognosis of three to four months to live had abruptly changed to weeks and that she was being released into hospice care. Her doctor was on point – she died exactly three weeks later, two days before her 68th birthday. What happened in those 21 days in between was one of the most transcendent experiences of my life. Lynn took me to the thin place between this life and the next one and I hope I never get over it.

This is the story of how I got there.

Lynn, Joy and Kathy (Lynn’s wife) on our wedding day in May of 2014.

I became friends with Lynn through marriage – she and my wife Joy were best friends for almost 25 years, so, when I got Joy, I also got Lynn – a way better gift than monogrammed towels. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the spring of 2017 and underwent surgery followed by chemotherapy. She lost her hair and felt like shit. The past six years, she was on the fickle rollercoaster of good scans/bad scans and endured several more rounds of chemo. Fuck cancer. But cancer doesn’t get to steal Lynn’s story – I just needed to give you some context.

Lynn’s Facebook post after she got the dire news in January. She always was a straightshooter.

In January, Lynn’s oncologist told her that her tumors were aggressively growing – even while being blasted by chemo – and Lynn had only a few months to live. I picked her up from her appointment that day and she delivered the news to me straight – no chaser. That was Lynn’s style. I felt like I was in a movie – a bad one – as I grasped for something remotely lucid to utter. I’m sure my knuckles were white on the steering wheel when I heard her say, “I’ve started planning my funeral.” I know that my voice cracked when I replied, “Make it a damn good one.” She nodded her head slowly and said, “Yep. I deserve that.” And she got one on par with Queen Elizabeth, but more or that later.

Kathy and Lynn in happier times -ringing the bell after Lynn’s first round of chemo was completed on the day after Christmas in 2017.

We always assumed that Lynn would eventually die from her cancer and it was a faint undercurrent to our time together, but she kept making plans and we were on board for them. In the last year or so, her bad days far outnumbered her good ones and this past Christmas, Joy wondered out loud if it might be Lynn’s last. I didn’t have to say anything as my dear wife read my dark face. But that’s the thing about hope – it’s the last one to leave the party – and we made the most of our holiday time with her. Looking back on it now, fate was kind to us. Lynn and her wife Kathy spent several hours with us on Christmas Eve when their power went out during a wicked cold snap. Lynn sat bundled up in her puffy coat by the fireplace in our living room for three hours – talking, laughing and drinking hot chocolate. Thank you, Duke Energy.

Christmas seemed so far way when Lynn called Joy on a Saturday morning in mid-February and said she needed to go to the ER – her pain had reached an unbearable level. Kathy couldn’t take her because she had been up all night with a stomach virus. Can you say piling on? Joy was with Lynn for several hours until she was admitted. Tests and scans revealed that the gruesome pain was being caused by the tumors obstructing her kidneys. A few days later in the hospital, Lynn and Kathy were faced with a Sophie’s Choice – either die in a few days from kidney failure or have a nephrostomy – a surgical procedure to make an opening from the outside of the body to drain the urine into tubing attached to a bag. The doctors said this procedure would give Lynn a few more months.

I think Lynn had already made peace with dying, but she had some things she wanted to take care of before she checked out, so she opted for the surgery and returned home a few days later with her “pee purses” – her words – in tow. Lynn had a penchant for accessories and we were grateful, as always, for her indomitable sense of humor. She needed that in spades a few days later when her oncologist delivered the death knell – even with the nephrostomy, her time on earth was down to weeks, not months.

That’s when she called me and we boarded the L-Train to Parts Unknown. It was a group tour with our tribe – Lynn, our tour director, Kathy, our friends Lori and Sue, and our other Lynn. One of the many gifts of being gay, at least in my experience, is creating your own family. This unit doesn’t always preclude your biological family, but this is the family that doesn’t vote against you in every election, the family that loves you unconditionally, the family that knows and loves you for who you are – regardless of pronouns. And I know you don’t have to be gay to have this kind of family, but I do think that my people have perfected the concept. After all, we’ve had centuries of practice.

Lynn and me back in the day when we robbed banks together.

Lynn had one sibling, a sister, who we shall refer to as Cruella for simplicity’s sake, and they were estranged for some time before Lynn’s death. But Lynn’s other family, her heart family, was huge – in fact, about 40 folks formed the processional (Lynn’s idea) behind Kathy at her memorial service. I didn’t know all of my other family members, but I do know that we were all damn proud to be in that number.

When Joy finished work on that woeful Monday night, we went to Lynn’s house, not knowing what to expect. And there she was in her recliner in her sunroom looking like she was ready to host book group. She had a beatific look on her face as she announced, “I’ve decided that I want to die on the same day as Jimmy Carter, so we can hold hands and jump together.” We didn’t see that coming (understatement). And that was pretty much every day until she died – one astonishing conversation after another. Oh, and President Carter, she’s waiting for you.

There were joyful surprises along the way, too. Kathy’s niece Dani and her wife Cat flew in from Iowa the very next day to spend time with Lynn and help with 101 things. I had never met them but was immediately smitten when I picked them up at the airport. They are in their late 30’s – lovely, bright and brimming with possibilities. I soon nicknamed them “the kittens” because they were so cute, sweet, and far removed from sickness and death. We all just wanted to pet them. They stayed for ten days with the promise to return for Lynn’s memorial service. And they did.

The Kittens – Cat (yes, her real name) and Dani in front of Lynn’s favorite tree.

Lynn continued to lean into her death, giving us the glorious gift of celebrating her life while she was still with us. And boy, did we. The first Saturday in March, we held a surprise drive-by parade for Lynn. We had originally scheduled it for two weeks later – right before her birthday – but we were keenly aware that time was not on our side. We weren’t sure how many folks would be able to come on such short notice so we were gobsmacked when about 40 enthusiastic friends turned out with festive decorations and signs. There were even leprechauns! It was an unusually warm day for early March and a camp chair at the edge of her yard served as Lynn’s review stand.

No one was going to rain on Lynn Parsley’s parade.

Everyone blew their horns and cheered – Kathy had prepared the neighbors on their cul-de-sac for the shenanigans. Each car stopped when it reached Lynn and everyone got out and hugged her. Most of them cried, but Lynn never did. She held their hands as they stooped down to her level and she looked into their eyes, and said things like, “I’ll see you on the other side.” Later that evening, Kathy told us that Lynn had been reflecting on the day and said, “I’m already in heaven.”

Our tribe has a monthly supper club, only we call it Cabana Night. That was my idea because the first one actually took place in a cabana. It’s the highlight of every month and Lori and Sue host and give everyone an assignment. And there’s always a theme. Always. Sometimes, there are even costumes. We’ve had almost 60 by now and we knew we had to give Lynn a final one. Lori and Sue had been out of town for a week when I informed them that they would be hosting a dinner party on the evening after the parade. I’m just that kind of friend. I broke the news to them on the phone while driving and by the time I got to their house – about a 15-minute drive – Sue had already selected a theme – Campfire Girls – and the e-vites went out within the hour. Never doubt what a few committed lesbians can accomplish on short notice. I think Margaret Mead said that.

We didn’t have s’mores, but we went through three boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

See: Eating your feelings.

Parade day had been a lot for all of us – most especially Lynn. She was feeling nauseous from her pain meds when she arrived for dinner and sat in Kathy’s car for a long time with her eyes closed. None of us dared to say it out loud, but I’m fairly certain we were all thinking the same thing –  what an idyllic way that would be for Lynn to depart this earthly life after such a glorious day. She rallied and made it inside to the couch where she stayed for the duration. We took turns sitting with her during dinner and when it was my shift, she asked me if I would give the eulogy at her memorial service. Gulp. I told her it would be the honor of my life.

My dear wife had been terrified that Lynn was going to ask her to do it because she knew she would never have the composure to get through it. Lynn laughed when Joy confessed her fear and assured her that she would never put her best friend through that. A visibly relieved Joy told Lynn she thought she might ask Jack, her male best friend, and Lynn laughed again and said, “Are you kidding? He cries more than you.” I’ll tell you this – you may not choose Joy or Jack to give your eulogy, but you couldn’t make finer selections for best friends. Lynn knew that and I like to think she knew that I could deliver the eulogy she deserved.

Lynn in her happy place – smack dab in the middle of her tribe.
Photo: Back row – left to right: Lori, Joy, Kathy, Lynn and Sue. Front row – Cat, Dani and our other Lynn. Big head: Me.

She was only able to eat a deviled egg that night, but she smiled a lot. We all did, especially when we toasted her. We had decided prior to dinner that every toast that evening would be the same – Lynn Parsley Forever! And we were ridiculously pleased with ourselves when we added the Wakanda hand signal and crossed our arms over our chests each time we raised our glasses. That toast may be the only one we ever need.

Lynn Parsley Forever!
We gave Lynn the Wonder Woman accessories before her surgery in June of 2017.
I think she liked them.

Kathy and Lynn’s sunroom was busier than a Trailways bus station during Lynn’s last few weeks. She had visitors day and night – friends from third grade, sorority sisters, half of Ardmore – the beautiful neighborhood she lived in for 25 years. Kathy was the traffic cop and would gently try and steer folks out who were staying too long. Only one snag – Kathy is Norwegian, she’s terminally polite and gracious, and bouncer is just not a good fit for her. Keep in mind that Lynn was in great pain – in spite of heavy-duty narcotics – during a lot of this time. She somehow managed in-person goodbyes to her book club, her movie group and her not so small small group which she led for several years. Once again, she left most of them sobbing while she kept smiling.

Lynn selected this photo for her obituary. She was a very witty girl.

There were some lighthearted moments, too. Lynn was a bit of hoarder – not in a nasty way – she just had a lot of stuff and she was determined to give away a lot of it before she died. She was the Imelda Marcos of Skechers shoes – she had over 50 pairs. She liked matching her shoes to her outfit. I mean, who doesn’t? We wore the same size and she was delighted to give me first dibs. One problem – I am married to a minimalist and we live in a small condo with limited closet space. And honestly, I’ve never felt a need for pink shoes. I took a few pairs, but I know I’ll never fill her shoes.

The more smiles change, the more they stay the same. I’d know that sweet one anywhere.

And there was that magical Friday night when the universe conspired to give us one last perfect evening. Lori and Sue had dropped by for a brief visit with Lynn but found her sleeping, so they didn’t stay. Lynn was not at all happy that she had not been awakened to see them. “I’m not dead yet,” she barked to Kathy and the Kittens. Kathy called Lori and Sue – who had just arrived home – and sheepishly asked them to come back. And, of course, they did. Meanwhile, Joy and I had gone out for a bite to eat for the first time in weeks and as we were finishing dinner, we got a text from Lynn, which simply said, “Come over if you want to.” We practically ran to our car. And when we walked into the sunroom, there was Lynn holding court in her recliner – not looking at all like someone who was going to die in 10 days. Her pain was stable and she looked like, well, Lynn. And then she directed Kathy to open a special bottle of prosecco – her favorite – that was in the fridge. The party was on and we felt like a giddy pack of unchaperoned 8th graders.

Time stood still that Friday night – or at least we weren’t aware of it. Lynn didn’t feel sick and we didn’t feel sad. Cancer was just an astrological sign and not a serial killer. We were all kittens that night – playful in the moment – no aches, pains, or worries. It was our Make a Wish dream come true and Lynn’s sunroom was our Disneyworld. I took a photo of Lynn that night that I have looked at almost every day since she died. It reminds me to be present in the moment. We all stayed late that night and when I got home, I texted Lynn and thanked her for showing us that sacred and mysterious space between life and death. She texted back, “It’s been a great ride.” I didn’t want the night to be over, but when I finally drifted off to sleep, I knew I was still smiling.

Some people just know how to live.

We texted a lot during those last few weeks and it will be a very long time before I delete those messages. One of the best nights was “watching” the Oscars with her. My wife usually makes it through the first award and heads to bed, so it was so fun to share snarky comments with Lynn throughout the show. She had some good ones, like “Brendan Fraser looks like a young Rodney Dangerfield” and “Is Tilda Swinton a ghost?” but the one below literally made me laugh out loud.

Milk Duds will forever make me smile.
(Lynn’s texts are in the grey background.)

All of us who have had extensive dental work join Lynn in that prayer.

When Lynn had accomplished most of the things on her to do list – financial and legal matters that would make things easier on Kathy – she decided to have her nephrostomy reversed, knowing that would expedite her death. The tubes coming out of her back were terribly uncomfortable and her pain was getting harder to manage. She was ready. Unfortunately, our healthcare system was not and it took a lot of phone calls and navigation to get the greenlight to proceed. Finally, on Wednesday, March 15th, Lynn had the procedure to remove the tubes. I texted her that morning to tell her I was thinking of her. What she texted back has become a mantra for me in the days since her death.

She made us believe it.

Lynn returned home that morning for the beginning of the end. She had originally planned to enter our local hospice as her death drew near – she didn’t want Kathy to have to live with the memory of her dying in their home. Kathy thought she would be okay either way, but “I think that’s what Lynn would have wanted” was a phrase she spoke softly time and again in those last days – when Lynn was no longer conscious. It was such a sweet affirmation of their commitment to each other.

Her pain was increasing each day as her body was shutting down and under the supervision of her hospice in-home team, she was taking more drugs more frequently. The upside was no pain, the downside was fewer periods of clarity. Joy had arranged for a few days off from her work – thinking she would be giving Kathy a break at hospice during Lynn’s last days. We went to her house on a Thursday evening and could see that her descent was beginning. She had a hard time keeping her eyes open and her speech was weak and slurred. Our conversation was spotty when Joy, her voice cracking, asked Lynn if she could see into the next world. Lynn’s eyes grew wide open as she replied, “Oh, I’ve been seeing into it for a while now.” Joy asked her what it looked like. We both leaned in close to Lynn’s face as she answered, “The path is lit up waves.”

The moonglade as seen from Lynn’s condo balcony. “The path is lit up waves.”

Joy and I needed something stronger than prosecco after that revelation. I loved Lynn’s imagery and it seemed almost poetic for her. Her favorite place on earth was her beach condo in Garden City, SC. Her condo is on the fifth floor of a high rise and features a huge balcony that practically hangs over the ocean. You feel like you are on the deck of a grand cruise ship when you are standing on it. Many times, when we were there with her, we would marvel at the moonglade over the ocean and in the weeks since her death, it has comforted me to think of her on that familiar path.

That was the last conversation we had with Lynn. The next morning, Kathy was having difficulty getting Lynn adjusted in her recliner – Lynn was in a stupor from her medication and unable to help her. Lori and Sue happened to drop by at just the right time and it was starkly apparent that this was not a drill – Kathy needed help. Sue was calling me on her phone when Joy arrived at Lynn’s house. The next four days were like that – we were all on the same page, seamlessly working together with one purpose – keep Lynn as comfortable as possible as she made her exit. We never discussed who would spend the night – we all did – or who would do what – we just did it.

This crew is true blue and we were so grateful for all the friends who dropped off food and hugs.

Our vigil became a sacred sleepover of sorts and took on an almost tribal ritual feel. A hospital bed was delivered and placed in the middle of the sunroom – her favorite room in the house. And Lynn remained in that bed with us surrounding her until she died. Her priest came and administered the Last Rites and we all laid hands on her. And then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Death wants to make sure you’re paying attention.

Time management is an important skill for caregivers.

At night, we slept in increments of 55 minutes. Lynn could no longer swallow her pain meds, so we had to give them to her by dropper every hour. Kathy was the head nurse and Joy was her assistant. We became as proficient as a NASCAR pit crew. One of us would gently hold her head up and another would massage her throat to help the medicine go down. Kathy would set her phone alarm for an hour and the rest of us – sleeping on assorted couches, would pop up to help when it went off. Funny aside – Lynn was a world class napper and strongly believed that every room should have a couch – just in case she felt the need – the need for sleep. She was right – and we played musical couches each night.

The second night, I slept on the couch in the sunroom next to Lynn’s hospital bed. My head was just a few feet from hers and her deep labored breathing was the only sound in the entire house. It felt like being in the passenger seat when I was a kid – long before car seats – curious about where my dad might be taking me. Only this time Lynn was driving and I wondered what she might be thinking as I stared into the living room where Lori was sleeping. There is something deeply comforting about sleeping under the same roof with people you dearly love. I didn’t really sleep, but I floated in that space with no fear – just an overwhelming peace that wherever Lynn was going, she would be okay.

My view from the passenger seat. Lynn kept steering us out of the dark.

Early Sunday morning, Lynn began the death rattle – that eerie gurgling sound from the back of the throat that usually signals that death is very near. Or not. After a few hours during which we hung on her every breath, she returned to the deep breathing she had been doing the past few days. She wasn’t leaving just yet. The hospice nurse came that morning and encouraged us to talk to Lynn and tell her that it was okay to go. We all smiled knowingly and we told the nurse that Lynn had been telling us it was okay for her to go for weeks. We decided that Lynn was enjoying being the absolute center of our attention too much to leave just yet.

We were all a bit delirious from sleep deprivation, which can only explain why Joy and I sat down on the couch beside Lynn’s bed and decided to start singing hymns. You might be thinking that was a really lovely thing to do, but you’ve never heard my wife and me sing. It’s not pretty. We know how awful we are and we giggled and declared that if our dreadful crooning didn’t take Lynn out, nothing would. Mercifully, we ran out of hymns and everyone joined us in the sunroom and we began playing a two-hour mashup of Lynn’s Top 100 on our phones. Lynn loved music – all types – and we covered every genre – including songs from marching bands – she played the French horn in her high school band. We played everything from 25 or 6 to 4 to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and wait for it – Midnight at the Oasis. Lynn’s bucket list trip was Morocco – her planned trip in 2020 was scratched by COVID and she deeply regretted never getting there. We really belted out that one for her and at one point – just for a nanosecond, Lynn seemed to bob her head with the music – absolutely true story and I have fairly reliable witnesses.

DJ Joy in da House!

Send your camel to bed…

A hospice nurse – Nurse Cindy, our favorite – came on Monday morning and after taking Lynn’s vitals, told us that Lynn would probably go soon. Or not. Hospice nurses are awesome, but they’re not the betting type. Nurse Cindy told us what a good job we were doing caring for Lynn – and yes, I’m sure she tells everyone that, but it was a lovely lift to our weary souls that morning. Our other Lynn arrived with goodies and fresh energy and Lori and Sue went home to shower and change. When they returned, Joy and I left to do the same. And, of course, that’s when Lynn took her last breaths. Kathy was napping and Sue shouted at Lori to go wake her – STAT. A few minutes later, Lynn was gone. Death is like that – it keeps you waiting and then it makes an Irish exit.

Sunrise from the sunroom on the day Lynn died.

Lori had called me to tell us to hurry back, but we were too late. I was worried that Joy would be heartbroken that she was not with Lynn at the very end. Here’s the thing about my wife – she is the most grownup person I have ever known. I mean it. She is just so annoyingly mature. I told her I was so sorry we didn’t make it back in time and she said, through her tears, “It’s okay. I’m just so glad Lynn is finally out of pain.” See what I mean? Later, after she had spent some time alone with Lynn by her bed – holding her hand and stroking her hair softly – Joy told me that she thought Lynn had died while she was gone to make it easier on her. I love that thought and I want to be like Joy when I grow up.

We all left Kathy with Lynn in the sunroom while we did the things you have to do when someone dies. I called hospice to let them know and they told me that Nurse Cindy would be over shortly. Someone had the idea of cracking open a bottle of prosecco to toast Lynn off. And wouldn’t you know it, just as Sue was popping the cork and Joy was holding the flutes, in walks Nurse Cindy. She seemed a bit startled. I guess not everyone celebrates the end of a loved one’s life so festively. Well, Lynn Parsley wasn’t everyone, and she would have loved every minute of it. Joy even asked Nurse Cindy if she wanted a little sip. That’s my wife – ever gracious. Nurse Cindy politely declined and began all the paperwork she needed to do before the folks from the funeral home arrived. She was so tender with Lynn, even tearing up a few times. When it came time for her to leave, she said she hoped she had such a devoted group around her when it was her time. I think she really meant it. And then we all hugged her – genuine hugs of gratitude. I told her that I hoped I would never see her again – at least not on the job – and she laughed.

Then two very dapper men from the funeral home came to take Lynn away. They, too, were so very sensitive and kind. We followed them to the door and stood at the top of the steps as they prepared to place Lynn’s body in their Dodge van. What the hell? Lynn was a car fanatic – buying a new one every few years. She had a couple of Jags and sports cars and really nice rides over the years. A Dodge van would not have been her style at all, but I guess death has a sense of humor. And then one of the men slid the van door open and we saw that there was another body inside. Joy, who is usually the most reserved in our tribe blurted out cheerfully, “Oh, look! Lynn has a roommate.” I thought I might fall down the steps from laughing so hard and then Kathy sweetly said, “Lynn would love that.” That was our Lynnie – making new friends wherever she went.

We went back into the house, which felt deafeningly quiet and Sue decided to make dinner reservations for us that evening at one of the best restaurants in town. And so, a few hours later, we sat in a very private nook in a very fine restaurant and told story after story about Lynn and toasted her with almost every sip. Someone had tipped off our server to the circumstances of our celebration and he was wonderful. As we were leaving, he said, “I hope you all enjoyed your evening – and the one not here, too.” Even he knew that Lynn was still with us.

Lynn’s memorial service was held ten days later on the last day in March. There were over 300 people in attendance. I don’t even know 300 people. The service was magnificent – just as Lynn had planned it. The music was gorgeous – the prelude included a piano, viola, and trumpet – and a lyric soprano sang. I think I did okay with my eulogy. My sister, who lives in California, happened to be on the east coast for business and was able to attend and I decided to focus on her when I began to speak. I was about three words in when I saw her beautiful face crumble into a full-on ugly cry and that immediately relaxed me. She’s a tower of strength, that one. I kept it short and sweet and a little bit funny and told a few stories about Lynn that I hoped everyone could relate to.

I shared that Lynn and I had recently reminisced about one of our favorite movies – Starman. There’s a wonderful scene in that film where an alien, played by Jeff Bridges, is sharing his observations about humans with a scientist. The alien says, “You are a strange species. Not like any other. Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.” That was Lynn Parsley. And when things went from bad to very worst in the last months of her life, Lynn was the one who made us feel better. She never gave up hope and she never stopped teaching.

I ended my eulogy with this excerpt from Mary Oliver’s poem In Backwater Woods:

To live in this world,

you must be able to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your own bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to

let it go,

to let it go.

Lynn knew this and she gently helped us to know it, too. I think of her every day, especially when I run across something clever on social media that makes me laugh and I want to share it with her. I miss laughing with her. And I miss talking about deep things. Not many people like to go there, but Lynn did and we went there often – especially near the end. I read a fascinating article shortly after Lynn’s death (she probably sent it to me) – an excerpt from a book by Mimi Zhu – Be Not Afraid of Love: Lessons on Fear, Intimacy and Connection. Zhu writes that “grief is an ancestor who teaches us to exercise constant and immense gratitude.” She goes on, “To this day, grief has shown me that love does not die at the face of death; it is transformed. When you grieve deeply, you are shown your abounding capacity to love. Love does not die. Love sprouts from the ground we have nourished with our tears.”

That last sentence reads like a prayer to me,

Lynn loved Star Wars and well done sarcasm. I sent this to her in my head.

I had the most amazing dream about Lynn the other night. I was sitting outside at a picnic table with Joy and her on a beautiful day. Lynn was still dead but looked great – not sick at all. She said she had come to tell us that heaven looks like you’re wearing 3-D glasses all the time. How awesome is that? Lynn loved all the Marvel movies, so the heavenly 3-D effect is so on brand for her. She was terribly excited about it all and I kept touching her arm to see what it felt like. Spoiler alert – it felt like an arm. It was such a happy dream that I could hardly wait for it to be morning so I could tell Joy about it.

And now the image I can’t get out of my head, not that I would ever want to, is of Lynn and Jimmy Carter in heaven with their 3-D glasses on – blissfully chewing on Milk Duds – and watching the latest Guardians of the Galaxy movie together. Somehow, Lynn knew it all along – every little thing is going to be all right.

Lynn and Kathy will always have Paris – September 2022.

The back of the bulletin for Lynn’s memorial service. Her idea, of course.
“No Hard Feelings” by the Avett Brothers – what a way to go.

Rest well, dear friend. We’ll see you on the other side.

Postscript: In one of our last conversations together, I told Lynn that I would most certainly write about her death. She smiled and paused for a second before saying, “I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”

And as of this posting, President Carter is still with us. No hurry, sir, but Lynn has saved you a great seat.

Eulogy for Lynn Parsley

Note: My dear friend Lynn Parsley died on March 20th, two days before her 68th birthday. Cancer sucks. Lynn gave me many gifts, particularly the last few months of her life, and I will most certainly write about them when the time is right. She also gave me the great honor of giving her eulogy at her memorial service last week. I think these things are meant to be spoken, not read, but I’m sharing it with you anyway. I think Lynn would like that.

Lynn Parsley, ten days before her death. Living, not dying.

I married into friendship with Lynn Parsley. Lynn and my wife Joy were best friends for almost 25 years. So, when I got Joy, I also got Lynn. Lucky me! And Joy? Well, she got my grumpy cat. Life is not fair, friends.

I loved Lynn Parsley – and so did all of you. Lynn made meaningful connections her entire life and perhaps more remarkable than that, she kept most of them. The parade of visitors through her sunroom the last month of her life was like an episode of This is Your Life on steroids– friends from 3rd grade, sorority sisters, most of Ardmore, dogs, on and on for days. Lynn was never careless with her relationships. She nurtured them and treasured them, but you know that. You may not know the person sitting to your left or right, but it would not take long to make a connection while playing Six Degrees of Lynn Parsley. It might be Book Group, Movie Group, GLADS, Sunday school, Cabana Night, Sherosa, Adam Foundation, therapy, or you just happened to stand in line with her one morning at the DMV and you had an amazing conversation about the multiverse and became friends. Lynn thrived on connection and being with her people, and if you were her friend, you were her people for life.

Lynn Parsley was an ever-amusing array of opposites. She was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known – she could quote Richard Rohr and Honey Boo Boo in the same sentence. Her cake was never baked. She was endlessly curious. She traveled all over the world, but perhaps her favorite journey was the drive to Garden City and her beach condo – with the mandatory stop at the Strawberry Patch – always two scoops. Lynn loved ice cream more than anyone I know over the age of 12.

She was famously frugal – have coupon, will shop – and in her honor, our local Kohl’s store is closed today.

And yet, she was abundantly generous to charities and anyone in need – usually in quite ways – never giving for recognition. And Lynn was one of those people who never had to be asked to give. She just did – over and over again.

She had a wicked sense of humor and it never deserted her. She could tell one of her goofy Delbert and Doreen jokes and then land the wittiest retort.

A few weeks ago, I texted her a picture of a bumper sticker I saw in the Harris Teeter parking lot. It proclaimed, Enthusiastically Episcopalian.

Lynn immediately texted back, “Well, that’s an oxymoron.”

One day she would be telling me about a fascinating Japanese documentary on Albert Einstein and a few days later she’d be raving about much she loved the latest Minions movie.

Lynn loved movies and she texted me during the Oscars and said she hoped there would be movies in heaven and Milk Duds that wouldn’t pull out her fillings. May it be so.

We reminisced about one of our favorite movies, Starman, a few weeks before she died. There’s a wonderful scene in that film where an alien, played by Jeff Bridges, is sharing his observations about humans with a scientist.

The alien says, “You are a strange species. not like any other. Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.’’

That was Lynn Parsley.

And things certainly went from bad to worse in the past few months and Lynn was always the one that made us feel better. She never gave up hope – her faith sustained everyone who loved her. And, of course, no one loved her as much as Kathy and I cannot speak of Lynn today without speaking about Kathy. And Lord knows, she hates that. I’m sorry, Kathy.

Kathy Ausen was the love of Lynn’s life. Lynn always felt like she won the lottery with Kathy – her beautiful Norwegian, and if you’ve ever had Kathy’s chocolate chip cookies, you know that she did. Their relationship was filled with love and humor and all the things that good marriages are made of, but it was also brimming with integrity and respect. Their relationship was shiny in all the best ways – like a beautiful crystal prism reflecting the best of both of them.

Bearing witness to Kathy’s strength and grace these past several years has made me appreciate the vow “in sickness and in health” in a truly sacred way.

Thank you, Kathy, for always holding us up with your elegant mettle.

When Lynn’s prognosis suddenly changed from months to weeks, she leaned into her death – certainly not happy about it, but peacefully accepting. Joy and I went to the house that night not knowing what to expect. There was Lynn in her recliner with a beatific smile on her face. She said, “I’ve decided that I want to die on the same day as Jimmy Carter so that we can hold hands and jump together.” She’s waiting for you, President Carter.

Lynn’s serene acceptance of her death gave us the glorious gift of celebrating her life while she was still here with us, and boy, did we! We had a drive-by early birthday parade and she was able to sit outside on a beautiful sunny Saturday and say goodbye to so many old friends. Most of them cried, but Lynn didn’t. She smiled that winsome smile and held their hands and said things like, “I’ll see you on the other side.”

Kathy told us later that evening that Lynn was reflecting on the day and said, “I’m already in heaven.”

Lynn loved the poet Mary Oliver and a passage from her poem, In Backwater Woods, perfectly captures Lynn’s presence in her final weeks.

To live in this world, you must be able to do three things, to love what is mortal, to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it, and when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.

Our beloved Lynn has let go, but the good news is that we never have to let go of her.

Lynn Parsley Forever!

Deborah Lynn Parsley, March 22, 1955 – March 20, 2023

Eulogy for my dad

February 10, 2023

The sunrise was beautiful yesterday. It reminded me of all the early mornings I spent fishing with my dad at the beach when I was growing up. The night’s blue light was beginning to fade while the sun cast its first golden rays, creating brilliant hues of pink and orange across the sky. I paused in the street to take it all in. I could almost smell the ocean salt in the air.

I can still picture my dad standing at the shore a few feet away from me with his fishing pole, looking out across the vast ocean, content and at peace. Occasionally he’d look my way to check on me and would run to my side if he saw me struggling to reel in my catch. He’d let me believe I was doing the work, even though his strong hands were guiding mine. The pride I felt from him when I would catch a fish always made me feel like I could do anything.  

Those quiet mornings on the beach were special to me for so many reasons. My dad worked a lot to take care of the four of us, so any opportunity I had to spend one-on-one time with him felt like a gift. I was always looking for ways to connect with him and learn from him. Dad was a patient teacher and he got so much enjoyment from sharing with others the things he loved. Now, as an adult, I realize my dad was giving me more than just fishing lessons.  

My dad taught me how to truly be present in the moment and appreciate the beauty of nature and life, but most of all each other. He taught me that you didn’t have to talk to connect, that simply sharing space and being present with another person can be more powerful than words. Those values have shaped me and guided me in my life, especially these past few months.

Holding my dad’s hand.

Toward the end of my dad’s life, I saw so much of what he has given me reflected back to him through my own actions. Our time together became all about presence, patience, unconditional love and being in the moment. It was a cold washcloth on the head. Encouraging him and cheering him on when he walked 13 feet. Feeding him a spoonful of canned peaches. Playing his favorite music artists—Elvis, Jackson Browne, Sinatra—singing to him hoping he would remember the lyrics, dancing around the room to make him laugh. Wiping away his tears. Sitting next to him in bed just holding his hand in the quiet of his hospital room.  

I don’t think I truly knew what love was until my dad got sick.  

No one took better care of him than my mom. I always felt and saw the love between my parents. But it was so much more apparent these past few months. It was heartbreakingly beautiful to watch the tenderness between them. My dad lit up every time she walked into the room. “Hello, sweetheart,” he would beam. My dad was happiest when he was with my mom. He worried about her and always told me as I was leaving: “Take care of your mother.” He never stopped wanting to protect us.  

Mom and Dad, so in love.

My dad was my family’s anchor. A steady, constant, and loving presence in not just our lives, but everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. He was selfless, always thinking of others. Even in the work he did, he always talked about taking care of his people. Throughout his career, he had to carry out layoffs and shutdowns of manufacturing plants, which weighed heavy on him. He did everything he could in his power to save peoples’ jobs and their families and delivered the difficult news with empathy and grace.  

He also had a wonderful sense of humor and a silly side. One time he auctioned off items from his closet to my sisters and I with real money. We never knew what we were bidding on because he would hide it behind his back and talk it up in a way that convinced us we had to have it. One of my sisters ended up with a tie rack. There were some tears when it was time to pay up and some of us didn’t have enough money in our piggy banks. I’m pretty sure I remember my mom yelling at him when she got home.  

My dad would get extra silly on Saturdays when he was in charge of taking care of us while my mom was at work. My sisters and I loved Saturdays with my dad. He made ordinary trips to the grocery store fun. The toilet paper aisle was our favorite. My dad would pause in front of the towers of Charmin and ask “Do we need toilet paper girls?” and we would provide an emphatic yes as my dad intentionally reached for the toilet paper at the bottom of the stack as we watched all the packages tumble to the floor in a heaping mess. Then he would nonchalantly exit the aisle with his shopping cart while saying “You girls better pick that up. You’re gonna get it.” Sometimes we’d laugh, other times we’d frantically and nervously put the toilet paper back on the shelf out of fear we’d get in trouble.  

Dad and his girls.

My dad told me once that being in the Navy taught him discipline. He said “You could withstand almost anything and get through it.” My dad was the strongest and bravest person I’ve ever known. He survived un-survivable things. His resiliency astonished everyone, even his doctors. Part of that may have come from the Navy, but I believe my dad’s strength was innate. That strength and all the other beautiful parts of him will live on in me, in my sister Gina, in my sister Amanda, and my dear nephews Aiden and Dylan. My dad said it perfectly: “We will continue on together.”  

Dad with his grandchildren.

The night my dad died, my family and I walked outside of Hospice House into the cold February air with broken hearts. I looked up and saw a full moon glowing brightly in the night sky. 

It made me think of years ago, after a tearful goodbye with my dad, a text he sent me as he was boarding his plane. It read:   

“The same moon that shines on you shines on me. Let’s stay connected.”  


Chester Stanley Kucinski, Jr.

February 18, 1947- February 6, 2023

Odd couple

How do you measure a year in a life? Remember the love.

Grief is a greedy bastard. You can quote me on that.

My mother died twenty years ago today. No Hallmark cards for this milestone. Come to think of it, I bet there are – I just haven’t seen them, but now I’m certain to get a pop-up ad in my Facebook feed. Anyway, I knew I would write about this anniversary and well, let’s face it, I’ve had a lot of time to gather my thoughts. I had decided a while ago that I wanted my post to be more of a celebration of my mother’s life than a somber reflection, maybe share some stories that would tell you what I want you to know about her. The kind of stories that reveal someone’s true character. Like the time my conservative Republican mother cared for one of my suitemates in college after she had a miscarriage. Yes, it sounds like an Afterschool Special, but it really happened.

I attended college at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia – the small town I grew up in. I lived on campus and was quite the naïve freshman when I met my two suitemates from Northern Virginia – Molly and Julie (yes, the names have been changed). They had been good friends in high school – schools much larger than mine and they arrived at JMU with a lot more experience in all manner of things than me. They seemed nice enough, but I rolled my eyes when I saw their matching Winnie the Pooh comforters when I walked past their room on move-in day. I had to readjust my initial impressions after they both snuck their boyfriends in that first night. It was a lot for a greenhorn virgin to process. I was terrified we would all be expelled if Mrs. Layman, our dorm mother (shut up, I’m old), discovered the contraband boys. Fortunately, Mrs. Layman was ancient and could have never made it up the three flights of stairs to our suite.

Me my first night at college.

Turns out Molly and Julie were fun, sweet girls and I really liked their boyfriends, too. We became fast friends and they schooled me in some of the more colorful electives of higher education. I’m not sure what my mother thought of my new friends, but she was nice to them – fed them, let them do laundry at our house – real perks when you’re living in a dorm. One weekend that fall, most of us went away for some reason – I can’t remember where – and Molly was the only one left in our suite. She had seemed edgy for a few days and I assumed it was a combination of boyfriend issues and cramps – a debilitating duo for sure.

When I got back to campus that Sunday evening, I went to check on Molly. She was tucked under the covers in her bed, looking rather wan. I asked her if she was okay. And then she told me about her weekend. She had been feeling bad on Friday evening and went to the infirmary – where she had a miscarriage. I think I stopped breathing and I became very aware of my own racing pulse. She told me that she thought she might have been pregnant – she had missed a period – and that’s why she had been so upset lately. The infirmary released her on Saturday and sent her home with a few parting gifts. Turns out an 18-year-old young woman scared and away from home needed more than some Ibuprofen and a box of Maxi Pads. So, she called my mother. At this point, I remember thinking having a heart attack would have been preferable to talking to my mother about what had happened. And what did my mother do? She picked up Molly and brought her to our house and gave her ginger ale and Saltine crackers and let her spend the night in my old room. Now I was ready for a trip to the infirmary.

My formative years were pre-internet. There was no Siri. The struggle was real.

Mom was a wonderful mother in many ways, but she never had “the talk” with me. Everything I learned about reproduction growing up was from a grainy film I saw in the basement of the Health Department when I was in Girl Scouts. Let’s just say that I did my own research. I barely dated in high school – mainly because I knew I was gay and well, such things just weren’t talked about back then. My mother was strict and I knew she would have a strong opinion about Molly’s situation. When I finally gathered the courage to call her to tell her I had gotten home safely from the weekend, she didn’t mention what had happened. We small talked for a bit and when it was time to hang up I somehow managed to form the words, “Thank you for taking care of Molly.” Gulp. I braced myself for her onslaught of disapproval, but her response was brief and resolute: “She needed a mother.” We never spoke of it again and I think that might be the only story about my mother that you need to know.

I’ve certainly known that feeling of needing a mother over the past two decades. I deactivated my Twitter account a couple of weeks ago. It’s not like I had a following or anything, but creepy Elon Musk was just a bridge too far for me. I did enjoy some of the snarky humor on the site and once in a while, it was fun to connect with a celebrity or two. I followed the actor Mira Sorvino – I found her posts relating to #MeToo very insightful. Her father, the late great Paul Sorvino, died this past July and Sorvino made a post I understood all too well.

Stars. They’re just like us.
When Twitter is used for good and not evil.

As a writer, I cherish words and I swoon when someone chooses just the right one. Unmoored. Mira Sorvino nailed it. I knew exactly what she was speaking of – that uneasy and sometimes scary feeling of drifting with no sense of direction. Pilots can sometimes experience this as spatial disorientation – feeling like they are flying in a straight line when in reality, they are leaning into a banking motion. Spatial disorientation was determined to be the cause of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s plane crash near Martha’s Vineyard in 1999. Kennedy was confused about his plane’s position over water while descending at night and lost sight of the horizon. In simple terms, he wasn’t where he thought he was. I think grief is a form of spatial disorientation. There have been many times during the past twenty years that I thought I was doing fine – or at least okay – when, in truth, I was drifting dangerously off course. Once in those early years, I spectacularly crashed and burned and hurt people I deeply loved. These days I try to practice gratitude over regret, but the residual damage can never be undone.

What it feels like when grief is your co-pilot.

I grabbed for any lifeline when I was searching for the horizon and my younger sister was the one who most often caught me. She was only 38 when our parents died. We have taken turns rescuing each other over the years and in those truly despicable moments when we have both been dismally adrift, we have somehow managed to keep each other upright. During these times, we often recall stories about our parents – most of them not as dramatic as the one I shared from my college days. Most are funny and sweet and quite ordinary. The sharing of the knowing is what keeps our loved ones alive and we treasure these conversations. Often, when we’ve made it through a particularly rough ride, we find ourselves laughing at our own resilience. And we always express our gratitude for each other. We know our parents would be proud of us in these moments.

Sister’s got a hold on me.

So, I knew I wanted to be with my sister to commemorate the anniversary of Mom’s death. It’s a little tricky since my sister lives in California and I’m here in North Carolina, but she’s always been a bit of a gypsy and as fate would have it, she’s on the east coast for several weeks for work. I wanted us to meet in a place that was meaningful to all of us – me, her and my mother. The town we grew up in no longer holds any comfort for us. It’s a funny thing when you lose your parents, you lose your hometown, too. We have no connections there – just the house we grew up in. Charlottesville, Virginia has always held a significant place in our lives. My mother spent a lot of time there as a child – her mother’s sister lived there and they often visited from their home in Lynchburg. My father attended the University of Virginia and passed his love of all things UVA on to my sister and me. My brother went to Virginia Tech, so the UVA gene skipped a sibling – but that made for a lively rivalry over the years. My sister also studied at UVA for a while and I lived in Charlottesville for a dozen years when I was a department store buyer for Belk. It remains the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived in and some of the happiest times of my life were spent there. It feels like home to me in a way that Greensboro or Winston Salem never have.

Wait, I may have buried the lead here. On a blustery Saturday night in December of 2002, my mother took her last breath as I held her warm hand in a quiet hospital room in … Charlottesville. Her death was beautiful and peaceful, so Charlottesvile felt like the perfect place to celebrate her by doing some of her favorite things – like shopping and drinking champagne – both aerobic activities in her book.

And then, on a Sunday night a few weeks ago, three University of Virginia football players were gunned down on a charter bus in a parking lot on campus as they returned to Charlottesville from a class trip to Washington, DC. Unfathomable. Charlottesville was once again the site of unthinkable violence and thrust into the national spotlight for the most heinous of reasons. My wife and I awoke to the horrible news on that Monday morning when we turned on the TODAY show. There have been over 600 mass shootings in the United States this year – this year – we rail at all of them, but when they feel personal, it is different. I was gutted. I immediately texted my dear friend Chris who has lived in Charlottesville for almost fifty years. It felt important to be connected with someone else who was heartbroken.

The fallen Hoos. Those smiles…
Charlottesville knows how to grieve. Mourning on the Lawn.

That’s another thing about grief – it stirs our innate communal needs. We desperately long for union with others who feel the same way. Anderson Cooper has a new podcast about loss and grief, Is That All There is With Anderson Cooper. It reached No. 1 on the Apple Podcast charts in the United States after two days in release. Turns out grief is the Taylor Swift of podcasts. Cooper is 55 and lost his father when he was 10 and his brother, to suicide, when he was 21. Cooper has known grief but kept it at a distance until his mother died a few years ago and he had to deal with sorting out her things – and, in turn – his unattended grief. He felt isolated and wanted to hear about how others navigate this lonely journey. The podcast is very personal and deeply moving, especially when Cooper’s voice cracks with emotion as he articulates his own grief. You see, grief is also a great equalizer – it can even bring intrepid war correspondents to their knees.

A good listen with a good listener.

I listened to each episode of Cooper’s podcast at my desk because I wanted to take notes. I can be nerdy like that. The other day, I went back and reviewed them because I knew there would some pearls of wisdom I had gleaned about grief that I would want to share in this post. Turns out that nothing I wrote down that Cooper and his guests had shared was anything I had not said or thought myself these past twenty years. I had just found so much comfort in hearing other people say these same things. Grieving is such a solitary act that this communal experience felt so affirming to me – life affirming, because to be alive – to be human – is to grieve. As Dr. BJ Miller, a hospice and palliative care physician, succinctly sums up in Episode 3 of the series, “A full life includes sorrow.” The title of this episode slayed me – Sorrow Isn’t an Enemy. In fact, sorrow is often our link to others and why we share our stories over and over again – to feel connected and keep our lost loved ones alive.

There will be lots of stories in Charlottesville this weekend and on Saturday evening we will have dinner with some dear friends who knew and loved my parents. They will have stories, too. There will be lots of laughing and most certainly a few tears. And my mother will be gloriously in the middle of all of it.

You see, joy and grief may seem like a peculiar pair, but they really can coexist. Perhaps not always peacefully, but the good news is that they mate for life.

Joy comes in the morning. Photo credit: The University of Virginia

Life is a highway

I have a love/hate relationship with surprises. It’s simple – I love being the surpriser and hate being the surprisee. I mean I do love little surprises – like when my dear wife comes home with a case of my favorite wine or a friend sends me a card in the mail when it’s not my birthday. I’m just not a fan of the big surprises – like a party where you never really are surprised, but you have to act like it to make sure everyone else is happy. That is no fun, but I’m all in as the surprise generator and I orchestrated a really good one for my sister over Labor Day weekend.

Sisters. Everything.

My sister lives in California but has been on the east coast for business and was visiting her dearest friend from high school – Paige – who lives in Waynesboro, Virginia. We grew up in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley in Harrisonburg – God’s country as my father was fond of saying – so Waynesboro is close to home for us. Paige and my sister have an extraordinary friendship dating back to the 8th grade. I hope to write about it some day in a book – yes, it’s that rich. They will both turn 60 next year, but when they get together, they’re like two teenagers and I was excited to crash their slumber party for one night. Bonus – Paige’s party mix is legendary.

Like the back of my hand…

The drive to Waynesboro up U.S. 29N through Virginia is the MapQuest of my life. I have made that drive at least 200 times since I moved to North Carolina in 1995. It was the route I took to visit my parents until they died in 2002. And during that darkest of years as they both succumbed to cancer, I was on autopilot, making that trek on an almost weekly basis. I was a little apprehensive that the drive might stir up some painful memories of that time, but instead, my trip was a comforting collage of many of the best times of my life – trips home for Christmas with my former partner, the car loaded with presents, goodies, and giddy anticipation; drives past miles of burnt sienna colored trees to Charlottesville to meet my folks and my dear friend Chris for a UVA football game; day trips to Lynchburg to visit my favorite aunt who always called me “Love” and made me feel cherished. This was a solo trip, but my car was filled with loved ones past and present.

My lucky number

My mind was so full on the trip up that I sometimes forgot that I was driving. Not in a dangerous way – more like when you enter a drive-thru carwash and slowly pull into the grooves of the tracks and shift your car into neutral and take your foot off the brake. There’s that sudden lurch forward, but then the car is driving itself and you simply let go, knowing that you are safe as you are mesmerized by the spray of changing colors. That’s what Route 29 feels like to me. I was being gently pulled forward in a cocoon of gauze filtered memories.

The Gospel according to Anne

As if the drive wasn’t already delicious enough, I treated myself to a free Audible trial and listened to a book by Anne Lamott – Almost Everything, Notes on Hope. Lamott is, of course, a wonderful writer and I love to hear her read her own work. It’s like sitting over a cup of coffee with her at the kitchen table. Neither one of us is in a hurry and I feel like she’s speaking directly to me – sometimes a little too directly. She often writes about family – a subject I find heartbreakingly fascinating. Lamott says that “family has to be a cauldron of challenges and loss or we couldn’t grow.” Yep. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time stooped over that cauldron since my parents died – endlessly stirring lamentations and disappointments. I’m tired.

Me with my BFF Anne Lamott in 2016

Lamott shares a story about an uncle that she had a huge row with many years ago – while she was still drinking. A few years after getting sober, she offered an apology to the uncle and he reluctantly accepted. They remained distant and life went on and they both got older and he moved into assisted living. She visits him often now and says that she will miss him when he dies. Lamott explains that our old identities within our families keep us small and that our work, and it is hard work, is to forgive ourselves and our families. For years, my role in my family was that of the dutiful oldest child – a role Lamott describes as “code for filled with rage” – that made me laugh out loud. I was damn good at that job, but when my parents died seven months apart from each other, my identity was obliterated. I desperately clung to a role that no longer existed and set myself up for years of disappointment with unrealistic expectations of others. Lamott describes these expectations as “resentments under construction.” See? She was totally speaking to me.

I could not bear the idea that my perfect family no longer existed. Of course, it never existed – no family is perfect. Lamott says that this journey we call life is mostly about reunion. And she ends the chapter on family with four words that made me almost stop the car – “Don’t bank on never.” These words were a hopeful balm to me as I motored down memory lane.

I thought about a couple of interactions I had had on my birthday last week with two people I hold very dear. We’ve been estranged for many reasons – some quite valid, some tethered to those old identities. Whatever the reasons – the connection with those people gave me a bit of the peace I have been longing for. I felt hopeful that there might be more.

So, I made it to Waynesboro and surprised my sister and Paige – a good surprise I think – at least they made me feel like it was. And we laughed and laughed and shared old stories and inside jokes – the kind of things that families do when they get together. We cried a little, too, when we remembered those no longer with us and some of the hard things we had all been through. When I went to bed that night, my body was tired from holding so much joy. I want more of that tired, please – the restorative tired that connection and reunion bring.

Sunny surprises

My drive home the next afternoon was lovely. I stopped at the scenic overlook on top of Skyline Drive and stood in the breeze for a good while looking down on the beauty below. There was a family picnicking nearby – just as my family had done many times over the years. They were happy and laughing and I wondered how things get so achingly complicated when it comes to family.

And then I heard dear Anne’s wise voice again – “Don’t bank on never.” And I got back in my car heading towards Route 29 because somehow, that road always leads me home.

No matter where I live, I will aways be a Virginian.