I was sitting on the Big Green Chair, watching some semi-forgettable TV show, dog at my feet, laptop making my legs sweat. It was after all, September, and it won’t cool down until our two week winter in February.
I hear over the lamp and table separating us:
This is a great quote!
What is it?
Sign of a good life: The place your funeral is held is too small to accommodate the number of people who attend.
Wow, who said that?
Of course, Mike d’Oliviera. He’s a local journalist here in town. He’s also got a knack for telling a story concisely. I could learn from that after all. I am greeted by people by “Hey! There’s the Rambling Moose” for a reason.
With that, Mike described the Funeral or Celebration of Diane Cline’s Life perfectly. I remembered standing in one of the back rooms of the place for most of the night. I briefly claimed a chair in the center of the room and thought about the crush of people, both Diane’s friends and family, how many there were with the sheer volume of bodies in the parlor of the former Richardson’s home that Diane sought to save with the help of the Historical Society. Seeing my friends on the board of Wilton Manors Development Alliance, the once Wilton Manors Main Street, where Diane was the Chairwoman for Life, yet another group that she had helped to found, I realized how packed the place was.
The rains had started just before the selected hour. It was as if Diane nudged a cloud over the park in order to get things going. I heard someone announce it was time to come on in out of the rain. When the music started to gather us together, the rain suddenly stopped. Timing was interesting even if that sort of on-off rain is something you become accustomed to here in the almost-tropics of Wilton Manors.
It wasn’t me who suggested that we pick up and move to the room in the back next to the kitchen, but I heartily agreed. Crowds are difficult at best for someone who sticks out above them. The Japanese have a saying that the Tallest Nail Will Get The Hammer First. I have quite a few dents on top of my head as a result, hammers and low hanging door closers aside. I got to observe the crowd from my perch near the back.
I’ll just stick to the back of the hall. Getting hit in the head with a hammer is fine for a nail, but for a too tall person in a too crowded space, it can be difficult.
This was a not to be missed event. Even those who Diane would have told off in public arrived, much to our bemusement. Kremlinology didn’t stop with the collapse of the Soviet Union, it moved to public events everywhere where people will ask “what is SHE doing here, doesn’t she have a clue?”.
Standing there listening to the politicians from our City speak about Diane, followed by the WMDA, then Family, the whole time I was looking at the fruits of her labor. Ironically I spotted a sign against the butter colored walls proclaiming Capacity 92 Persons, and said I doubt very much that the Fire Marshall would dare count heads in this packed building.
With back against the wall and potluck food on a plastic plate, I found my niche. A part of the celebration but on the periphery trying hard not to block the walkway or the doorway to the speeches with the too-low ceiling height. Being where I was, balancing the experience, there were a few things that would float in over the thrum of the crowd. One story about a commission meeting. then later followed by Diane’s favorite admonishment to “Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver”.
They didn’t repeat my comment that if I ever buy a bus, I’ll drive it naked.
We eventually left the hall at the South End of the Drive. Walking out I commented that most of what you see in this little city was directly due to the work of Diane and some other very committed people. This is a small city. Small cities all over the world get things done on the backs of the cadres of volunteers working to make life better.
The shape of the Drive, the character of the sidewalks, the widening to four lanes and our ongoing struggle to narrow it back with the Two Lane Initiative, many other aspects of this City that all look like the normal fabric of life here were at least touched by this woman. It really is a case of if you didn’t know of her, you probably didn’t know what was going on in this quirky little island. The same can be said of some others that I know well who are tireless volunteers.
Speeches are all well and good. In this sort of celebration, knowing what we did, it was interesting to point out, quietly to each other, the intentional revisions of some very specific historical events, all for good effect.
Actions are better. The works of anyone’s lifetime can rarely be summed up in a single afternoon’s event. Sometimes you can get a better view of that life by leaving the hall and walking down your own Main Street after a September rain.