We are gathered here today to remember Shannon, and to celebrate her life. Everyone here has a story of some kind to tell - everyone remembers something about her.
Some people in this room are remembering that she made them laugh. She was often funny. She could tell a joke well, when she remembered one, but she was at her best when she was in a group of people, and making the most of the interplay of words and ideas. She was a great one to have at a party.
She told me once that often people who met her thought she was proud, or annoying, or too loud. She said she had tried for a few years to quiet down, but just ended up bored and depressed. Her conclusion? "It's better to be disliked than to be insipid."
She was a great friend. She was the one you wanted to have with you when you went dancing with a bunch of girls, because if circumstances demanded it, she'd tell off - or, for that matter, sucker punch - any obnoxious men who threatened to encroach on any of her friends. She was bold enough to step in front of her friends and say "Get lost, jackass" if it needed to be said.
She was the first to volunteer to walk you home. "Boy, there's some crazy people out there, you can't be too careful," she'd say as she got her coat. "Luckily I can kick ass, if ass-kicking is in order - don't worry."
She had a cheeky grin.
She wasn't shy, and easily drew out those who were.
She refrained from judging others. She used to say, "Anybody is capable of anything, given the right circumstances."
She was a good cook. She hated it when people attached moral value to eating or not eating. She pitied people who said "I'm being bad" while reaching for a bite of cheesecake.
She loved to read.
She wasn't much for TV, but she passionately loved Buffy, and tried to get everyone she knew to watch it. "It's not what you'd think", she insisted to them as they laughed at her.
She didn't much care if people laughed at her.
She believed in the sisterhood of women. She defined herself in terms of these relationships. Scrawled on the flyleaf of a notebook from her knitting collection are the words: "This book belongs to Shannon - daughter, sister, mother, friend.....lover, fighter, scholar, writer, singer, nonconformist, libertarian." And then, after that: "Down with mass production".
She esteemed the uniqueness of each person's beauty.
Except her own.
She despised the society she lived in, for brainwashing its citizens into complacency, and suspected the school system was really a training ground for conformists. "They get 'em young," she would warn you, "and they never let them go - the poor kids are sunk. What choice do they have but to fit into their prescribed roles, if they are taught to revere the average?"
She tried to raise her kids to be free. She wanted them to know their own power, and to resist control by the mainstream.
She worried constantly that she was failing them.
She knew she could do anything, and was willing to try....Anything.
But she never truly believed her achievements, even in the midst of success.
She would be the first to say that she was a complicated person...then she would shrug and remark, "But then, who isn't?"
Sorting through the collected works of her life, a picture starts to form of the person she was. Creative. Impulsive. Thoughtful. Extravagant. Ambitious. Mercurial. Exuberant. Most of what she created is gone - given over the years to family members and friends with a laugh, and a rueful shake of the head: "I hope it fits," or "Give it back if you don't wear it, okay?" I think she knew that most of those things might never be worn and, despite her request, would never be given back, either, to be ripped out and made into something new. Most of those things are probably tucked away into drawers, or folded carefully on shelves, or maybe....well, maybe some of them are here today. Worn, for the first time, out of tribute to a woman who spent so many hours of her life creating small imperfect tokens for her loved ones.
But it's the other things that are most compelling - the things she never made, but planned to make. The bulbs she bought, but didn't plant. The things she never quite finished, but started. The fabric she couldn't bring herself to cut into: the yarn she never quite cast on. These are the things she pulled out over and over, looked at, examined closely, held up against herself, and then put carefully away again. I don't know why she never got started - I kind of wish I could talk to her about it. I'd like to ask her why that beautiful orchid wool was never knit up: why the soft hand-dyed merino sock yarn is still bundled into a skein. I'd like to ask her what she planned to do with the two meters of white Irish linen, and the muted grey worsted whose label proclaims, "Best English Woollens - One Skirt Length". It has been washed, dried, steamed, and is "needle-ready". I know in her mind's eye these garments were carefully crafted, and meticulously finished, and hung gracefully on her when she wore them. I know she hoped they'd be perfect, and was excited about making them. So I wonder whether maybe she never thought she was quite good enough...not a good enough knitter to experiment with that beautiful alpaca laceweight. Not a good enough seamstress to justify cutting the Italian silk. Not glamorous enough to waste expensive cashmere on.
I think if she could give you - her friends - a message, it would sound something like this.
Stand by your friends.
Know your own strength, and revel in it.
You're every bit as good as you think you are....in fact, you're probably better.
Laugh as often as possible.
Live outside the mainstream.
Spend on yourself: money, energy, and time.
Create. Create whatever you can, out of everything you have. Create peace, and safety, and warmth. Create friendships. Create things: garments, or sculptures, or cakes or words or paintings or music or laughter, to serve as mementos of your hope and your love and your grief, for when the days of your life are spent - your years counted out.
And say your piece.