My friend Ginette and I made the 3 hour commute on Tuesday night. My friend Tore got up at 4 am to make the same commute on Wednesday morning. It was definitely still Winter weather in Oklahoma compared to Dallas. That was a detail that hadn’t occurred to me when I packed my clothes.
When Tore arrived in Okemah, he met us at the local McDonald’s near the Days Inn motel. We loaded up on sugar and caffeine before heading to the church.
Ginette had the foresight to wear teal—the color for Ovarian Cancer Awareness. I regretted not thinking of that detail. Instead I wore what I’m known for—polka dots, a hat and blue hair.
We arrived at the church in minutes. We signed in and an usher found a place for the three of us to sit together.
There were lots of people—admittedly I didn’t see any familiar faces in the crowd as we settled in. I imagined the faces to be family members and close friends from the area. I was definitely happy to see how quickly the church filled up. I wondered if Alana would have ever imagined a church packed with people all present to honor her and to support her family.
The church service had a beginning, a middle and an end. Some memories of the day are best left unspoken. What I can say—I did my very best to represent myself and the many friends that wanted to be there but weren’t able to attend.
Few people are very prepared with words to say to parents who have lost their daughter at such a young age. 30 years is too young. I prayed for the right words—and somehow words came. I was humbled that Alana’s mother and her sister recognized me. We’ve never met—but I tend to be “that” person that posts all sorts of photos online for everyone to see.
After the service we got in our cars, formed a line and drove to the cemetery. I noticed immediately all the cars and trucks that stopped on the road to let us pass by. I’ve been to other funerals where there are policemen that stop traffic. But it wasn’t necessary here. There was even a 3-way stop that we approached and drove by without any difficulty. The town seemed to know. It was sad but also beautiful to see the decency of people.
We even reached a long stretch of a 2 lane country road. There wasn’t a lot of traffic but periodically as we drove by—we noticed the oncoming traffic—various trucks—that pulled over out of respect. That made me happy.
We reached the cemetery—one of the biggest I’ve ever seen. We said our final goodbye to our friend, Alana.
Afterwards we ate at Classic Diner. My only regret was not wearing a poodle skirt. Swing, jitterbug and rumba music played in this charming restaurant. The waitress knew the family—Alana’s father has a veterinary clinic nearby. The waitress told us she had to put her cat down recently at that clinic.
We finished our meal. Is this a time to take photos? Is it poor taste to capture memories? I tend to document everything in life. We decided to take photos.
We said our goodbye to Ginette before she made her trek back to Texas. Tore and I decided to go on an adventure in the town of Okemah. Earlier that day I had spotted the perfect building that matched Tore’s suit. I hoped to return and take a photo— and we did.
When I found out Tore was coming to the funeral I was relieved —and for a very strange reason. I had planned on dancing a two-step in memory of Alana—and without a man, I figured I’d try to rally Ginette to be my dance partner. Alana liked country western dancing —and it only seemed fitting that we honor her memory by dancing. I think she’d find humor in it and would expect it from us.
As I’ve mentioned in other writings—Alana’s last ‘worry free’ dance with her friends was the day before she found out about her cancer. It was for a 1930s danceathon on the Continental Avenue Pedestrian Bridge for the Trinity River Revel.
Tore and I finished our tour of Okemah then headed back to Texas. It was along the way that I remembered I hadn’t danced a two-step.
Denise: “Tore! We cannot leave Oklahoma soil without dancing for Alana. You have to stop somewhere.”
Fortunately, Tore remembered an interesting bridge from the drive in the early morning. He stopped and parked near what looked like an unused bridge. I grabbed my cameras and iPhone for music.
Still in open toe heels, I walked briskly on the gravel and excitedly approached the Calvin River Bridge.
We took photos and it wasn’t long before we had to get out of the way—cars were approaching to cross the bridge.
I’m sure we were a spectacle: a man in a black suit and tie and a woman in a polka dot dress and heels… on a bridge.
Then a school bus approached and slowed down. There clearly wasn’t enough room for the three of us on the bridge. We got out of the way, smiled and waved. The bus driver waved back at us.
Once the bridge was clear, we danced a two-step in memory of Alana. I even let Tore turn me—and I managed to turn with success. Alana liked to spin and turn – and Tore was happy to accommodate this request when he danced with her.
Satisfied with the two-step dance we wrapped up with the requisite Lindy Hop danced to Glenn Miller’s song, “In the Mood.” I danced with gusto despite the circumstances that brought us there—I did it for Alana.
Now we could leave Oklahoma soil.
Date: February 4, 2015
Cameras: Canon G11, Big Bertha (Canon 5D Mark II), assorted camera phones.
Notes: I debated on posting/sharing photos and writing. But I write to remember.