Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tayneshia--One Million Pictures, and Slightly Fewer Words

Around 5:30 on the thirty-first of July this year I received the phone call from one of my co-workers, letting me know that my friend Tayneshia had experienced an unexpected brain hemorrhage and passed away. At first I thought she was kidding, until it occurred to me that this particular friend (along with every other friend that I have) wouldn't joke about something like that. We hung up and I spent the rest of the evening trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my Tayneshia was gone, ironically a mere 10 days before we were going to be hosting her for a Utah visit. Rough stuff.

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It's taken me awhile to set aside the time (and gather the courage) to write a few thoughts and memories about Tayneshia. To write all that we experienced together, all the ways she blessed my life, all that I think and feel about our friendship would take more time than I can reasonably find in this season of my life, and would be longer than most people would care to read. So, this isn't going to be a definitive document (or a document at all, come to that) by any means. But, it's better than nothing, hopefully a whole lot better than nothing.

The Sugar Gliders - a lunch club we formed. Love these girls!

I met Tayneshia in 2003. We were doing a production of The Wizard of Oz, and Tayneshia was hired as the stage manager for the show. The summer was kind of a rough one, and by the end of it, the powers that be had determined that one of the solutions would be to hire a full-time Production Manager. As it turned out, Tayneshia got the job, and became an official Utah transplant--though let's be clear--I certainly never deluded myself that she had any intention of becoming a true Utahn. The woman lived here for 4+ years and never changed her Texas license plates or drivers license. A Texan through and through, that one.

Tay's birthday (which we called "Mayteenth") 2005

When Tayneshia was hired, word didn't get to me immediately, and so when she came to my office and requested a whole bunch of budget reports, I told her that I couldn't give them to her without clearance from one of the managers of the company. I can't just go out giving financial data willy-nilly you know? I mean, anyone could walk into my office and say that they were the new production manager. Where's the proof??

She got someone to let me in on the news of her hiring, and I gave her the reports. She never let me forget that though. We became fast friends, close friends, long-time friends, and through the years, she would frequently remind me that our friendship started with me not trusting her enough to give her some sheets of paper with a bunch of numbers on it. Then we'd both laugh.

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Bryce Canyon, 2004

Tayneshia and I shared an easy friendship. We were very different in our religion, political leanings, race, and a few other aspects, but we were very similar in our outlook on life, valuation of family, friends, and relationships, and love of laughter. We had much much more in common than otherwise, and it showed. We had TV nights together (American Idol and the Olympics were particular favorites), taught each other how to cook our different specialties (she taught me gumbo, I taught her tamales), shared our interests and talents (I taught Tay yoga, she took me to the eighth-largest mall in the United States and marched me up and down those shops 'till I begged for mercy!)

Early on, we discovered that we were easy traveling companions, and we capitalized on that, going places near and far.

Christmastime, 2005 (I think)

The Bahamas

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New York City

Tay and I would share religious conversations, to a point. We didn't get too far into doctrines, but we would have conversations about why Mormons do this or that and why Catholics do this or that, and how it all comes together. Tay often jested about the book she was going to write one day, entitled The Care and Feeding of Your Mormon Friends, and I considered myself (egotistically to be sure) a prime source of information for that book, and were she ever to publish it, I would definitely have tried to hit her up for a piece of what would surely be a huge cash pie.

Bryce Canyon


As it turned out, Tayneshia and I ended up being friends during what was (in retrospect) a pretty challenging time of life for me, both professionally and personally.  Since we were co-workers as well as friends, she had a unique view of those struggles, and we would sometimes mull over some of the challenges we were encountering at work, as well as some that we would each encounter in our daily lives. She told me one time of some advice her mother had given her years before. I liked it so much that I wrote it down on a piece of paper and taped it to my computer monitor, where it stayed for many years (until I broke down and traded my big box monitor in for a sleek flat screen model). Wanna hear the advice? Of course you do! Here it is:

If you're going to pray about it, don't worry about it; 
and if you're going to worry about it; don't [bother] praying about it!

Following that bit of counsel has saved me hours and hours of worrying over the years, and probably a stomach ulcer as well.



Not that Tayneshia was a perfect, faultless saint or anything like that.  One of my favorite memories of her involved her being more than slightly self-absorbed, a trait which she freely acknowledged in herself, and as such, one that I feel comfortable in expounding a bit.

It had been a harder than usual day. I was in my office, feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, low on hope, high on discouragement. Tayneshia was sitting across the desk from me, having just picked up her mail from the slot that we kept outside my office. As I ran down the list of things that were troubling me, Tay sifted through her mail, looking over this and that. After we had commiserated a little bit, she got this giant smile on her face, and said in complete seriousness,

"I know just the thing that will cheer you up!"

Then, without another word, she opened one of the mail envelopes she had been browsing, and reached in and pulled out a 5x7 picture of a whole bunch of people I'd never seen before in my life. I looked at it, then looked at her, questioningly.

"See! It's my graduating class from Delaware (where Tayneshia had attended University)! Now, doesn't that just brighten you up?!"

I was dumbfounded, and thought for sure that she must be kidding. A bunch of pictures of utter strangers with one friend mixed in just the thing to cheer me up?! What?? Why would that cheer me up? Who cares about these people? What do they have to do with me? I'm in real pain here (well, more like real inconvenience, but still) and you are playing show and tell with me and expecting it to cheer me up???

I couldn't believe it, but at the same time, she was right, it did cheer me up. The thought of my Tay, pulling something like that out and knowing that it would naturally brighten anyone's day gave me a chuckle inside, and later that night, as I was telling the tale to my Heidi, a chuckle outside. It gives me a chuckle now, thinking about it. It's one of my favorite memories of her, and I've got a lot of good ones, so that's saying something.

(And--there are times even now when I'm feeling down, and I think to myself, "Geesh, if only someone had a nice class picture of a bunch of people I'll never know, now that would really cheer me up!" and then I laugh and it cheers me up considerably.)

My birthday, 2006 I think

I could go on and on with memories and inside jokes and joys that became a part of my life because of my association with Tayneshia. I could talk about how opinionated she could be on facebook, how one time Eric made the mistake of engaging her there on a particularly polarizing topic and they went the rounds about it all, neither giving an inch to the other, but still at the end of it finding enough enjoyment and common ground that Tayneshia offered to be Eric's second wife (platonically of course) should his crazy religion ever open up that polygamy thing again. That made me laugh, and if I ever had to have a (platonic, only platonic!) sister wife, I don't know that I could do much better than Tay.

Houston Grand Opera (where we met Bryn Terfel)

I could write about how, when I was engaged to Eric, I let Tayneshia "off the hook" (as I saw it) from throwing me a bridal shower, and she thought that I didn't trust her to do a good job and felt bad about it until she talked it over with one of our mutual friends (Heidi) who explained that throwing parties is something that stresses me out, and so I probably thought I was doing her a favor by not having her do it.


I could describe how Tayneshia nursed me through what ended up being one of the hardest times of my life, how she sat me down one time in the middle of it all and told me (with the kind of empathy that can only come from personal experience) in great detail how one day I'd look back on these days with understanding, and that one day after that, I'd share that understanding and in so doing, would be able to help another through what might end up being one of the hardest times of their life.  She was absolutely right on both counts.


I could explain about how I was looking forward to her visit, mainly for the laughs and the stories we would tell and share, but also because I wanted to pick her brain as an only child, get a few hints and/or suggestions as to how I might raise my own only child to be a kind, generous and amiable person (as Tayneshia was), while not having the (mixed at times) blessing of having to share toys, funds, parental attention and basically everything else with five other siblings (as was my experience).

The Bahamas

Obviously I could go on and on with stories and lessons and experiences all featuring Tayneshia. Probably what I should do instead is write a sentence or two, encapsulating what Tayneshia was to me, how I saw her, what she taught me, how I'm changed because of her. Only, I can't. There's too much to say and share and I just know that I can't do it justice, and probably don't need to do it justice anyway, because I have a suspicion that anyone who knew Tayneshia at all well already knows all these things and doesn't need to read them here, and this post is already marathon long. So, I'll just end with this:  Tayneshia was a gem, and I'm more happy than I can adequately express that she and I were truly friends of the road, and (as it turns out) friends of the heart as well.

Until we meet again, my friend.


Jake said...

what a great post.

Melissa Corry said...

An amazing and special friend!!

Anonymous said...

Crying all over again...

Jeri said...

a beautiful tribute to a wonderful friend. you were both blessed to share such a friendship.

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