A Toast to a Life Well Lived

My good friend Tiina would have been 31 years old today had it not been for an inoperable tumor that took her life two and a half years ago.

It is said that our lives continue on for as long as we are remembered and if that is true, then Tiina lives on in the strongest possible way. By the time she became sick, we were not as close as we had been; new friends had come into both of our lives, pushing each other into the periphery (a beloved periphery to be sure, but a periphery nonetheless). Yet, hardly a day goes by without me remembering this bright light.

When I see the ocean, I think of Tiina and her referring to it as “God’s bathtub.” When I see a bee, I think of the time when a bee flew up my shorts after I had stumbled upon her and her then boyfriend in an awkward conversation. When I see a nipple, I think of Tiina and her bizarre hatred of the word. When I see an umbrella, I think of Tiina drawing a picture of my then two-year-old nephew Nathan holding his umbrella on a rainy spring day in Sidney.

I can’t help but think of Tiina and her stubborn refusal to give up on people even if it meant showing love to people who had no love to return  (as was the case with me when we first met just after her sixteenth birthday). I can’t help but think of Tiina and her indomitable faith and how she was able to hold together with love things I have never been able to reconcile. I can’t help but think of Tiina and her uncanny ability to make everyone she met feel they were special and loved; I can’t say how many people at her funeral and memorial service spoke of having lost their ‘best friend’.

And I can’t help but think of Tiina in respect to the changes that have happened in my life since she died. I can almost feel her simultaneously giving me a supportive hug and kicking me in the ass for waiting so long.

I’m not going to call her an ‘angel’ or a ‘special messenger from above’ — I’ve never found that kind of talk helpful or attractive or anything other than silliness. But Tiina was definitely a special soul and the fact that she is so often in my thoughts after all these years and even though our friendship was not what it had been goes to show just how special she was, how wonderful a life she lived, and how alive she remains to those who love her even still.

So here’s a toast to Karen Tiina Eunice Williams, the most beautiful soul I have ever met. May her memory be eternal!

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