My friend Roxanne died last week, losing a long fight with breast cancer at 47. I am coming home from her memorial service. Roxanne was not a famous person. She was a plant biology professor with a love for ferns at Chatham University, where the memorial service was held. Many students and colleagues came to the service. She was a devoted wife and mother, and many members of her extended family were there. And she had a genius for friendship, knowing and connecting people across many decades and towns who came from all over. Like me.
Yesterday's service was actually the fourth. When the news of her passing reached Chatham, many classes stopped and the college community had a spontaneous gathering and mourning. The next day the block party in her neighborhood turned into a spontaneous appreciation of Roxanne. The formal funeral at the little country church in her home town brought out her family and old neighbors.
The theme of all of these memorials was that Roxanne Fisher was a decent, nurturing, teaching woman who stayed tied to the people in her life, and brought them together with one another. Two of her colleagues, themselves fighting breast cancer, spoke of how important it was to them to have Roxanne as a model, working and caring and trying new things to the end.
The core fact of Roxanne's death is just a sad, hard loss. But all the life around her memory is a triumph.