Yesterday afternoon, I received a Facebook private message from a friend of my beautiful, hilarious, irreverent, salty niece, Sloan Elizabeth, who died from cancer while we were talking about writing her eulogy in ways you probably won't hear in church.
BridgetteHi, you don’t know me but I’m one of Sloan’s many friends. We had a very dear friendship of 23 years and I’m heartbroken that her life is coming to an end. She talked of you fondly and loved you very much. I’m very sorry for your heartbreak and pain. Sloan asked me a few months ago to write her obituary. And for the life of me, I can’t remember Major’s first name or Gayle's maiden name. I thought maybe you could help me out. Warmly, BridgetteMeThank you, Bridgette -Russell called me this morning to let me know an ambulance took Sloan from Birmingham to Auburn yesterday and she's in Bethany House, a hospice. Major's first name was Thomas. Gail, I think that's how she spelled her first name, her surname was Everly, or Everley. [Major and Gail were Sloan's parents, Russ is her old boyfriend, who became her constant friend and protector.]BridgetteOk I thought it was Thomas bc Sloan made sure she said it but I didn’t want to make a mistake. And Everly... yes thank you. I was fortunate enough to see her for Thanksgiving and spend some time with her... it was very meaningful to me. I’ve known Sloan for 23 years and I know she didn’t always have the support of her family. But I’m glad she had you. She was too.MeSloan became a daughter for me, here's a link to the tribute I wrote to her on my blog:Sloan Elizabeth Bashinsky: What a life-loving, fun, often hilarious, unabashedly straight-shooting, wry, beautiful, authentic human beingBridgetteI haven’t even read it yet but in my rough draft for the obituary I wrote that she had an irreverent humor and a wry smile ... she knew how to love good people.Mevery definitely irreverent humorBridgetteAnd a fucking wry smile like I’ve never seen
I met many family members: Emily, Brooks, her dad, Martin but none seemed to appreciate her like youMeThere are photos of her in what I wrote, and one of her, and my, favorite words, is fucking.You are welcome to share with other people what I wrote for her.BridgetteI will thank you for sharing that with meAnd I love the word fuckingAnd I’m fucking angry I lost my best friend to this shitMethen, perhaps fucking should be in her fucking eulogyher mother would split her sides laughingBridgetteShe told me I couldn’t do the eulogy bc she knew I wouldn’t make it throughShe was rightHer mother was an extraordinary woman and it always made me and Sloaney supremely jealous that she could eat a whole almond and be fullMeI mean, fucking should be in the fucking obituaryBridgetteOh I told her that both of us are irreverent so her obituary would be too... I told her that I may have to put in there that she hated TrumpI just want to honor herIt will be something from the heartI told her it would be my last love letter to herI hate that I didn’t have enough time so she could read itBut writing is a painstaking process
MeThere is an irreverent report at the end of what I wrote for Sloan, about a born-again relative coming to see Gail when she was close to leaving, and he asked her if she was saved ...Bridgettesometimes when I talk to other people in her life that I never knew - it explains why she loved me. And we talked about this a lot...MeDid you read yet what I wrote? If not, perhaps you should, before we yap further.BridgetteI just read it and it was raw and beautifulI may need your help with the obituary... I keep getting caught up in the simple mechanics of itShe called my mom and asked her if she was coming to her funeral my mother cried and said I’ve never been asked to come to a funeralMeas is Sloan Elizabeth, raw and beautiful - fucking really does need to be in your obituary, perhaps several times, to fucking tell it fucking right - in other words, fuck the mechanics, I'm a writer, just let your heart write it, one fucking word at a fucking timeBridgetteWill you proof read it?Mehell fucking yes!!!BridgetteOk, thank you. I’ve been writing it for months in my head. I have many notes. I know it’s just an obituary but it’s my best friend’s legacy
Methrow away the notes, close your eyes, weep, cuss, laugh, and start fucking writing it!!!BridgetteI’m three glasses in Uncle Sloan acting like I’m writing Raymond Carver’s what we talk about when we talk about loveMeI'm thinking I'm gonna make this here conversation another tribute to Sloan Elizabeth and put it on my blog and email it to her and Russell. Gwad!, would l love to read it out loud at her wake, funeral, whatever. I wonder how that would go over at St. Luke's? I have a bit of history there myself.BridgetteUncle Sloan I would love to hear it... I know she asks Ivy to say something at the funeral bc I couldn’t do it... but I think you should say whatever you fucking wantI was worried no other family was going to be there...I’ve tried to avoid inundating Russell bc I know everyone wants to text him so it’s nice to have someone talk to me that is close to her and familyI hate having to take the back row to this but I know I’m not the only one in painMeI think I just might like to say a few words at her wake. As should you, if she is your best friend. Do it even if you ain't even invited to speak at her wake.BridgetteAnd I want to say this thank you for speaking on her behalf and getting her that money she was also so happy that she was in your will. It gave her a lot of pride and happiness and she felt lovedI remember she came and picked me up from a deep depression when I ended an 8 year relationship from a man that was bipolar... she came into my house talking about you and how you were moving closer to her. She loved you.That was beautiful.MeYeah, and I bet she told you she was gonna kick your butt if you didn't snap out of it and get on with your life, and maybe she said some other things you can't repeat in some circles and get invited backSloanShe looked at me after I had bathed and put makeup on after 3 weeks and said: "I never thought you were gonna put makeup on again or brush that nasty ass hair."Then the other day when I was bathing her she said: "I bet you never thought you would have to take care of me... and I said, well I owe you."MeAll us who know her, owe her, she gave us so much, and, yes, she had a really rough time when she was young, and it's fucking amazing how beautiful she became, and I mean beautiful in many ways.BridgetteShe was extremely complicated and sometimes difficult as hell. When you have a true relationship with someone for 23 years there is a myriad of different reasons why you can fight and fucking hate each other. We had them all, but our relationship always survived. I’m proud of that. I’m proud that we survived both the banal and earth shattering stressors that a real friendship can have. She was fucked up when Gail was dying and she dismissed me. We spent 2 years not talking. Love in any form is complicated and messy. Living and dying is messy, but I will love her until I draw my last breathBut I was no Saint and we just flew by the seat of our pants. But damn I can’t tell you how many crazy shit we got ourselves intoHell I almost burned down Gail and Martin's house one night by accident.And by fucked up- she dismissed me. I never left her. I knew she was in pain.MeSloan and I started moving toward each other when Major went missing, and we grew closer during Gail’s illness, and Gail and I became close again. She was a friend before she met Major. Sloan arranged for Gail and I to talk one evening by phone, I lived in the Florida Keys, she had told Martin and Sloan that I was one of several people she wanted to see before she died, but she was declining fast and was a long way away, so we had a fabulous talk, and I split my sides laughing as she told of the born again coming by and asking if she was saved. Maybe I should tell that if it gets too churchy at Sloan’s funeral.BridgetteLol, Sloan’s humor was unparalleled. She wanted me to put in her obituary that she was the funniest person she knew, but she confided in me later that I was in fact the funniest person she knew but she would never admit to it and take it to her deathbed. I’m not just losing my best friend but the person that got me and my humor. I’m missing the person that finds the same humor in everything as I do. I asked her what I was supposed to do with that love that I had for her... where does it go, what do I do with the love I had saved up for her... she told me to spread it to everyone else I lovedMeAmen, and Sloan is the funniest person I know. I wonder if Martin still thinks I belong on a mental ward? I truly hope the funeral does not get churchy, cause I never saw anything churchy in my times with Sloan, and, in fact, if she carried on in a church, the way she carried on with me, I spect she would be invited not to come backBridgetteI’m not a churchy personAnd neither is sheBut I think she wanted to see her mom againAnd only God can broker thatMeOh, she will see her Mom again, perhaps this is a good place to end this here spontaneous eulogy.BridgetteLol I know why she loved youIt’s been cathartic for me
And I am very appreciativeMede nada, I think this here carrying on needs to be spread far and wide, and I appoint you in charge of that, I spect you know heaps more people in Sloan's orbit than I know.BridgetteOh you know Sloan was also an enigma... she also has so many friends that I never met bc that was her. She just always had so many people that loved her and were in her orbit. Unfortunately I live in New Orleans and couldn’t be there all the time but when I lived with her we lived it up. If you want to speak at her funeral I think you shouldI don’t know if I could make it throughMeI'm speaking now, in case there is no other chance, and I will do what I can to spread this here carrying on, and you do what you can after I stitch it all together and wrap it in a bow.BridgetteShe just died Uncle SloanMeOMG, what timing. I'm going to have me a good cry, you do, too.And you start writing that fucking obituary with all your heart, and don't hold nothing back, nothingBridgetteI’m so sorryAnd I don’t know you but I love youMeI'm so glad I got to know her; she's with God now.It's over, the pain; the horrible pain; she is free, beautiful, angels are singing, I'm crying my heart and guts out.BridgetteMe tooMy husband brought me two shots of bourbon ... my heart hurtsMeThis is eulogy was arranged by Sloan and by God, wish I could drink, booze makes my gut ache and my liver howl, thank you, thank you, thank you, for writing to me this afternoon.BridgetteThank you for entertaining a crazy lady that just texted you out of the blueI hope I can find the words to honor herMeYou did plenty of honoring her in this here reminiscing. Perhaps that's enough? Since you weren't "working at it" but simply wrote it from your heart and guts. After I have it in a blog post, I will send you a link, maybe tomorrow. I just got off phone with Russell, he's having rough go, his mother came to see Sloan, and she died a few minutes later.BridgetteShe was the one that told me. I’m grateful that you got to hear it from Russell and be there to support him. I’m butthurt bc I couldn’t be there but I’ll get over itMy heart just hurts and I’m angry bc 41 is too young and I’ve lost my best friend but my pain is not greater than anyone else’sMeI dunno, long as you and Russ knew and loved Sloan, your pain might me incomprehensible to me. When I called Russ this morning, he said this is the end. I said that I wanted to drive down to Auburn, he said he was telling everyone no, the hospice wasn't letting anyone into Sloan's room, you could stand some distance away, due to covid.BridgetteI guess I’m an empath ... pain is never incomprehensible to me. I’m sorry for your pain. I don’t think anyone in your family will mourn her like you will and she deserves that.MeFor sure, but you and Russ knew Sloan much longer, so I figure all those years add up...