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.
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!