Word Count: 185,566 Words Later

Let There Be Light

Word count seems to be a hot blogging topic lately; along with rules about not writing about one’s self. Maybe these have always been hot topics and I’ve just been too self-absorbed to notice. This post isn’t about passing yourself off as grammatically challenged when the truth is you just don’t care enough about readers to properly punctuate. So, if you think I’m going to reveal my own solid gold nugget “How to Blog the Right Way,” you may want to click to a better place.

At this writing, the document that holds my blog posts contains 87,301 words. If I add the 44,505 words in Summoning the Strength and all of the comments I’ve made on other blogs, plus the words in my still untitled second book, I really should have nothing left to say. But I do.

To  grammar police, smarty pants, know-it-all well-meaning experts who post examples of their expertise such as this:

“Your blog revolves around your person. Stop talking about yourself already. I don’t know you personally, and I couldn’t care less about your ramblings. Tell me something I can use in my own life. Facts, stories, not boring personal stuff.”

I have this to say:

One day in February 2011, I received a call from my friend Donna. We did our rave/rant exchange, which had been our custom for over two decades. Husband stuff, adult child stuff, projects pending completion. I’ll let you imagine which topic fell into the rave category and which spilled over into rant. We each took a breath and then she said something that smacked me in the gut like a size sixteen steel toed boot.

“I need to ask you to do something and I want you to promise not to get upset.”

Like I had so many times, with full, yet completely unreliable, confidence that I actually had control over how “upset” I would get I replied, “Okay, what is it?”

“I want you to deliver my eulogy. You’re the best person to do it because you’ll know what to say.”

I knew what she was asking. I knew what it meant. I knew that there was no other answer but absolutely yes I would do it. I also knew that she’d want to see a draft. We talked for a little longer. I’d already planned to visit her in a couple of weeks. When I hung up the phone, I started thinking. I am an over-thinker. I made a list of every word I could think of that described this crazy friend of mine.

Then I went to see her.

She’d already been through hell and all of the wretched misery that comes with cancer for over a year. Her mother and I had taken turns staying at the hospital round the clock so that one of us would be there in case she needed anything. By this time she was exhausted, but unwilling to give in to that vile thief. We sat in her kitchen talking about some trivial something. Another doctor’s appointment, what to have for dinner, and then I told her when she was ready I had something for her to read. The next day she read it.

This is what it said.

The original Greek, eulogia, simply means good words. There are so many good words to say about Donna. I made a list from A to Z and even then there were more. The first thing that came to mind was how lucky we are that she ran such a successful Attitude Adjustment Boot Camp.  If you ever needed a reality check or just that little extra encouragement to get your act together, Donna was a great motivator.

Her generosity extended equally to friends, family, co-workers, even strangers.  It usually involved cooking or crafting of some sort and often required large quantities of cheese, her Kitchenaid stand mixer, industrial sized baking pans, a drop cloth, a trip to Hobby Lobby, Home Depot and Sam’s all before lunch.

I could always count on a phone call from Donna to include one of the following phrases: Stephanie, I’m telling you, it was the funniest damn thing I have ever seen in my whole entire life. Or Stephanie, let me tell you, it was the craziest damn thing I have ever seen in my whole, entire life.

Donna learned from the master how to tell a story better that anyone I have ever known in my whole, entire life. I loved to hear cherished memories retold in such great detail that I could feel the joy and excitement as if I had been right there with her.

Laughter was Donna’s hallmark. She laughed with us or without us, and at us, and about us. Thanks to her I will always remember not to take myself too seriously. I could always count on her to point out someone doing something stupid.  She had a zero tolerance policy for stupidity and if the person got hurt while doing something stupid, it would just make her laugh that much more.

Each time I have moved to a new place, it didn’t feel like home until Donna came to visit. She was kind. She was thoughtful. She snored like a freight train.

She was great for a road trip to the beach, to the mountains, and everywhere in between. She had exceptional knife skills. She knew the best places to eat and the quickest back roads to get there. 

Her favorites: all dogs everywhere, the color yellow, the Jockey Lot with George, Boots Randolph’s Yakety Sax, rivers, Birkenstocks 

Her beliefs: be nice to everyone, offend no one, what comes around goes around

Her values: family, friendship, hard work, swift justice, compassion

Her pride: being a mom, being a military wife, being Southern

She taught me that excellence does not require perfection. She knew the importance of going the extra mile to make others feel special. I remember apologizing once for unloading my troubles on her, as I did so many times, and with her own special brand of honesty she said, “Its okay Steph, I know you’ve never been one to suffer in silence.” Thank you Donna for making sure I didn’t have to. She is my most cherished friend, and I will miss her for the rest of my life.

It’s been a year since I made those remarks. I edited it a bit; left out the “damns” because her mother planned a lovely church service. The place was packed with people whose lives were better for having known Donna. I carry her laughter with me every day.

I’m moving on just like she’d want and I started this blog to help me through the grieving process. I wrote a book about how we gain strength from others. I’ve enjoyed the exchange with the enormous community of writers and photographers that I’ve found through this blog. I appreciate your comments, and like anyone who spends time researching and writing content of any kind, I am hooked on “likes.” Would I still write without them? Sure. I did for what seemed an eternity when I first started blogging.

It makes sense to have rules. We need them to guide us and help us become better at lots of things. I like to think I make my own rules. The truth is, I don’t as much as I bend the rules others have made as far as they’ll go. Sometimes that exposes my ignorance. Other times, it gets me just where I want to be. Right here, right now, I’m only one click away from someplace better. Thanks for reading.

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26 Responses to Word Count: 185,566 Words Later

  1. erinleary says:

    I feel as if I’d known her, too. What an image you paint with your words. I understand the emptiness you have – it is an ongoing reminder of the impact she had on your life. For that, I am grateful for you – to have experienced a life-altering friendship, to know acceptance, to share that joy. It’s probably the best part of being alive.

    Keep writing the way you want. The heck with what anyone else has to say. I write for me – and figure if anyone finds it interesting, funny, helpful or other – well, that’s just a bonus.

    • Honie Briggs says:

      This truly was a life-altering friendship. I miss Donna terribly when I find myself in need of a smack in the head. (which still happens) Thank you for your kind words, Erin.

  2. Le Clown says:

    Honie,
    Thank you for bringing me here. This has moved me. And I understand what you meant about writing it all about Donna…
    It’s your call. This, this is truly a great post. Keep on writing about you, Donna, your life; I’ll keep on reading.
    Le Clown

    • Honie Briggs says:

      Friendship is a wonderful gift. I had two years to prepare for the loss of my friend. I still miss her when I think of something that I know would make her laugh hysterically. (actually something stupid I’d done would cause riotous laughter) The best thing about friendship is what remains to make us laugh. Thank you for your comment. It truly means a great deal to me. I do have a lot to say about processing grief. So, I will be in touch.

  3. swlothian says:

    Another classic Honie post. Each one I read amazes me..

  4. Wyrd Smythe says:

    For this my word count is but three: “Wow! Very moving!”

  5. I met Donna in CO and I just loved her. After reading that I love her even more. I also got a little misty reading it. You have talent girl, no matter what you write!

    • Honie Briggs says:

      She was the kind of person you couldn’t help but love, even when she really pissed you off. :)
      Even if you didn’t give me compliments, I’d still cook your favorite foods at Christmas! Can’t wait to see you again.

  6. That eulogy made me misty, Honie. Donna was a very special person, clearly. As are you. And ignore people who say not to write about yourself. You can’t help but write about yourself, unless you write all fiction. And even then, as the old adage says, we “write about what we know.”

    • Honie Briggs says:

      Thanks Madame. Yeah, that was me ignoring “those people” :)
      HA! What makes a person special, to me anyway, is their willingness to be genuine. I appreciate tact as much as the next person, but someone who will call me out when I need to be and kick my butt when it needs to be and who accepts me no matter what…THAT is a special person!
      Fiction is just reality with a twist…I try to write what I know and if I stick to that, I should be done soon. ;) NAH!

  7. Impower You says:

    Beautiful eulogy. I see a new career for you… She sounds wonderful. When I look at all the close friends I have lost, I am reminded how they were each so vibrant. They all really lived. It drives me crazy that those are the ones who died early, not the cranky miserable people who live to 100, but the ones that had fun and made sure everyone around them did too.

    Well, please don’t stop talking about yourself. I quite enjoy your ramblings, thoughts and ideas. You are refreshing.

  8. artsifrtsy says:

    A really lovely tribute. The first funeral I ever attended was for a woman I had known since I was a child, her husband asked me to do the eulogy. It was incredibly tough and difficult to make it not about my loss but about her as a person and her meaning to all of us – you did that just perfectly.

    I think there is a difference between writing about yourself and being vulnerable and real. I think the latter can inspire. I think that’s a good thing. I have no clue about word count – do I get to count pictures as a thousand words each?

    • Honie Briggs says:

      Thank you. How difficult that must’ve been to deliver a eulogy at the first funeral you ever attended.
      Yes, you would think one picture = thousand words, for yours you get more like 2500!

      • artsifrtsy says:

        I was young and it was the least I could do. It was humbling and grounding.
        Can I ask, were you doing a lot of writing before you lost your friend? I went through a journaling process after a significant loss – but in time I put it away. I write a lot of product copy in my work, but it’s not really writing. It’s something I want to be better at.

        • Honie Briggs says:

          Humbling and grounding, I totally get that.
          To answer your question, no, I wasn’t writing at all. I hadn’t written anything more significant than performance appraisals in years. I made several half-hearted attempts to journal, but sometimes a year would pass and I’d find my notebook in a box that had been packed away with some personal thoughts scribbled on a few pages, nothing more.
          Writing, really focused writing started as a whim, something for fun, and turned into a bit of an obsession. I wrote day and night until my book was finished. I think it gave me something else to focus on while I was there caring for my friend during the last few months. She slept a lot and when she awoke she’d ask me to read what I’d been working on to her. Then last November I started this blog and it’s been a daily (mostly) exercise ever since.

          • artsifrtsy says:

            Wow – so 2 books in a pretty short span of time. Impressive.
            I’m pondering taking the NaNoWriMo writing challenge next month. I have been thinking of compiling stories for years and have never done anything about it. I’m kind of the keeper of the stories in my tribe. I figure at the end of the month I’ll either have a semblance of a book or a pile of crap:) I set out to shoot photos every day about 3 years ago – I remember a professor telling me that it’s like piano lessons, you don’t get better without daily practice – so the idea of writing everyday makes a lot of sense.
            Thanks for the insights.

  9. What a beautiful eulogy Honie, your friend will always be with you in your heart! She is watching over you :)

  10. JackieP says:

    You loved your friend very much and obviously she you. As for what makes a good blog, I think you do it right. I didn’t know there was a rule book on blogging. If there is I’m probably breaking every one of them. Also, anyone who thinks you talk to much about yourself doesn’t have to read or follow your blog. You keep doing what you’re doing. I always read it.

  11. First of all, sorry for the loss of your friend. Your word count title grabbed me because I’d just posted a word count post last night on my blog. I enjoyed the read. Very nice. Holly

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