Yesterday I received a message announcing that my friend, Leanne Coppen, has died. She was living with cancer and fighting it with every cell in her body. Her blog, Living with Breast Cancer, often stood in for the Inspiring Message of the Day on this blog. She was full of hope and irreverent humour and inspired many, many people with her words.
Leanne and I went to high school together. At 16, Leanne could best be described as a hippie love chick. She had long hair, wore baggy sweaters and long pendants and her wrists and fingers were covered in bracelets and rings. She liked to smoke dope and talk about peace and love and so did I. We were good friends.
Leanne and I had many conversations about what we perceived as the f'd up state of the world and how Peace and Love were the only solutions possible. Once, we got into a deep discussion about currency. Why were there different currencies, we wondered? It's One Planet, One People. There should be One Global Currency, we decided. "A dollar is a dollar," we reasoned.
This became a mantra for all that we believed: A dollar is a dollar!
Leanne and I got our first tattoo together. She got a Sun on her lower abdomen and I just couldn't decide what to get. We sat in the tattoo parlour poring over pictures. She asked me questions, trying to help me figure out what I was looking for. I saw one of her pendants, hanging on a long chain from her neck. It was a Peace Dove. "That's it," I said. "This?" she asked, holding it up. We then held each others' hands through the pain of the tattoo needle.
Today, that Peace Dove, faded now, 22 years old, feels like Leanne on my shoulder.
One other memory stands out among many. I arrived at a party where Leanne was already waiting with a male friend of hers I had not met before. Upon my arrival, he looked at Leanne and said, "Yup." Later, when he was out of the room she said, "Before you got here I was telling him about you. He asked if you were pretty or beautiful. I said, "Beautiful." That's what his 'yup' was in response to."
Leanne, who was stunningly gorgeous and whose beauty both made me jealous and inspired me, thought I was beautiful! This was a defining moment in the Celia McBride self-esteem books, lemme tellya.
Once, my beloved friend Eden, who was and still is Leanne's best friend, said, in the typical stoner language of the day (well, we were stoned a lot of the time!), "Where did Celia man go?" Forever after I was Celia Mango to Leanne and Eden.
Last fall, Leanne and I re-connected. We had stayed in touch over the years and had seen each other probably every five years or so and it had been about that since the last time we'd got together. I emailed her to see if we could have a visit because I would be in Toronto. She emailed me back. "Celia Mango! How completely fantastic to hear from you!"
How I cherish those words now.
Leanne, you still feel really present. I've been talking with you since yesterday. Remembering, sharing, celebrating your life. Leanne, dearest, you introduced me to Goethe and you wrote as deeply as he did. Your words will be remembered, monuments will be erected in your name. Your legacy has only just begun. Believe it.
Inspiring Message of the Day: O Death. You take the body but not the Life. Sadness, grief, loss. All real, all necessary. But beyond those feelings is the Everlasting Spirit, the Indweller of all Beings, the Great Reality: Peace and Love. Therein lies our comfort.