What follows is a eulogy I delivered for my friend Tanya at her funeral services which were a week ago today (on 8/13/2016). She died after a brave, year and a half long fight with an aggressive form of cancer.
Tanya was not an outgoing person by nature, but she practiced very hard at it. This along with her friendly and caring nature drew people to her and my eulogy was one of several delivered along with beautiful, moving songs sung by her talented friends. She will be missed dearly.
First I have to confess that I’m jealous of those of you who have known Tanya for so much longer than myself. [For those who don’t know me my name is Steve and] I only first met Tanya back in 2007 when she came to work as one of my few coworkers in a small office. As I would later learn, Tanya had a very sensitive sense of smell and one of my first interactions with her was when she was going around her new workplace looking for what she thought was a backed up toilet. She stopped by my office and she said something like “can you smell that? It’s like a sewer pipe or toilet…” and I said “oh it’s not a toilet, that’s just my lunch”.
I thought at the time, and still think that the whole situation was funny. But Tanya herself was mortified, and even years later, when we knew each other much better, I had repeated the story and as amusing as I still found it, she still felt bad that she had insulted the stinky lunch that I was eating.
Polite and considerate to a fault, but very honest also. Part of the outfit that I had on when I last saw her I had obtained because she once thought so little of my work wardrobe, that I liked, that she had me go shopping with her at lunch so that she could help me pick out some new clothes.
This honesty usually caused her much consternation though. She hated conflict, and she would often rather spend time alone than risk a situation where her honesty might cause issues, or even where she felt that her very presence would be an inconvenience to others. But for those of us who knew her, she was never “inconvenient”, and we needed her just as she was: because her honesty didn’t come from any maliciousness or self-righteousness; no, it came from the same deeply polite, caring and considerate person.
I would have conversations with her where she would bring up issues that she might be having with her loved ones but in the same breath talk about how much she cared about them. She, certainly wasn’t in any way arrogant or even thought that her way was the best and in fact her modesty could be one of her most challenging character traits because even though like anyone else she might berate others at times, she very often took extra care in berating herself. This lead me at one point to exclaim to her that her self-flagellation was hurting me even more than she hurt herself, because the person she saw herself as bore so little relation to who she actually was, to the person that I loved. And who was she? A loving daughter, sister, aunt, and friend; yes. But what else?
Just like many others here, when I would go to see her in the hospital I was always genuinely happy to see her, to see that she was ready to be amused with me lightly aggravating her yet again. This was good because not only did I go there to check in on my friend but I also wanted to be able to have normal conversations, cheer her up and generally try to at least temporarily distract her from the very unfortunate situation that she found herself in. This got harder and harder over the later months and once, only once, I completely broke down in front of her. I felt awful, I had let her down. This one thing was the only thing that I could do to help her, and I couldn’t do it.
Seeing me, as she lay there in pain from the disease that eventually take her from us, all she said in the most calming and lovely voice was “Steve, don’t be sad”.
That is who she was to me and to others, her caring when in times of distress, a calming influence in times chaos, and…
There’s a line that I caught in a book that reads: “...we all lie to ourselves; we tell our own selves more lies than we ever do other people. “
Tanya was my much needed honesty that I relied upon to break the cycle of lies that I constantly tell myself because she cared enough that she would risk even our friendship rather than see me come to harm.
Just like everyone else she had her flaws; she could be obstinate, disconnected, and difficult to get along with at times, often seemingly to the point of pushing people away. But she was such a beautiful person because her flaws never originated from ill will.
I have to mention that even before she had gotten sick she would occasionally tell me that no one would remember her when she was gone, that some people might cry for a day and but they would then soon forget all about her. I of course would tell her that she was very wrong, that there are just too many people who care about her.
I never really knew if she actually believed what she said or if she just wanted reassurance from her fears. However, it warms my heart seeing all the wonderful people here today, friends and family; those who know what a wonderful person she was. People who know that a piece of their heart is gone, a piece that will never completely heal. As part of the honesty between us, Tanya and I would celebrate when the personal flaws that we thought that we had turned out not to exist. Thank you everyone for coming to celebrate with her one more time, in love.