Dear Dan Dear Friends,
This would have been my fifth letter to Dan, but after a couple of starts I realized that I was repeating what I have written over the last five years. I’m not sure what this means, except that perhaps I’ve said all that I want to say here. If I gave any credence to Kübler-Ross (which I absolutely do not) I suppose this is what “acceptance” would look like.
Instead of focusing on what I have lost, though, I want to focus on what I have, and what I have gained. To do this, let me tell you a story. I’ll preface this by saying much of this happened while I was in a state of shock, so names and faces were sometimes a blur.
Five years ago today, I experienced the worst moment of my life. I was lost, and I had no idea what I was going to do. I came home from the hospital in a daze. A few hours later, something amazing happened. Friends began showing up at my front door, first one, then another, and another, and soon I had a house full of friends. They brought snacks, they brought beverages, they brought frozen food for meals later. It was exactly what I needed, a distraction and a way to keep me from falling into a deep pit of despair. I’m not sure who started that phone chain or who organized what, but I am so, so grateful to all of you.
Two days later, friends collaborated with the Hyatt Regency O’Hare to hold a memorial gathering in Dan’s honor. The Hyatt went above and beyond to accommodate us. Midwest FurFest staffers were invited to join us, as well as all our local friends and extended family. It was an amazing thing to see the O’Hare Ballroom packed with people to remember Dan (or Takaza, as many knew him by). It was so comforting to know how much our community cared and wanted to show that.
Our extended group of friends and family wasn’t just local, though. It took a few months to set things up, but in June 2017 I organized another memorial gathering at a hotel near O’Hare Airport. Almost 150 people came, some local, some flying in from every corner of the country (and Canada!). It was a night for a lot of tears for me and many others, but also laughter and wonderful stories of how Dan touched so many lives. It was also another bit of necessary closure.
Looking back at an awful time in my life, I take comfort knowing that I was surrounded and supported by a remarkable group of friends and family (both found and related). You all kept me going and were there when I needed you. I can only hope that I can be there for you when needed as well.