The Presidio, San Francisco, CA
June 21, 2002
No matter where Danielle went she made an impression. And although I am two and a half years older than her, she was always the one who walked into a room and set the tone--or changed it to her liking. I would sneak in after her and wait to see what would happen next.
Some examples: Shortly after Joey and I started dating, Danielle spent Christmas with us and Joey's family, whom she'd never met. Within an hour of our arrival in Maryland, Joey managed to get himself uninvited to Jazz Fest by his father, and Danielle promptly got herself invited in his place. The day before our wedding in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Danielle spent the afternoon introducing herself to our friends by offering each of them the ride of a lifetime on the back of a jet ski, which she raced back and forth across the lake, grinning like a certifiable lunatic. Each time she came to a full stop at the pier, her hair remained standing straight up from the speed. The band we hired for our reception packed up their instruments as soon as Danielle started DJing; and by the end of the night she had us all playing musical chairs. And no small achievement, within 10 minutes of entering the offices of Martha Stewart Living, where I was working last year, she had the entire Weddings staff laughing at her critique of their latest issue: What kind of couple makes the ring bearer wear leiderhosen?
Everywhere she went, Danielle was her own acceptance committee. She welcomed herself into every club and embraced whatever and whomever she met with openness and humor. In her short life, she was a rugger, a soccer player, a painter, a diver, a golfer, a singer, a drummer, a camp counselor, a kindergarten teacher, an aquatic director, an event coordinator for straight Jewish singles, a DJ, a karaoke host, an automotive technician, a licenced forklift driver and more. And she had stories to tell about all of it.
Danielle had the gift of enjoying life so expertly that she inspired other people to do the same. You could tell her you'd discovered anything from Journey to Dolly Parton, and her response would always be an enthusiastic "See!" She brought out the guilty pleasures, the kid in everyone by creating a Jim Henson-ish world around her that was filled with Muppets, disco balls, toy cars and Nerf basketball hoops.
The particular power of this gift was made clear to me one day in February when I was playing secretary, working through her heavy correspondence. I read the emails out loud, and she dictated her responses. At one point I read an email from her friend Maggie Bergin, who was writing to see if Danielle wanted anything from Northampton, Massachussets. Danielle stuttered out "Yes. Ice cream." To which I said, "Come on, Danielle. That's crazy. How is she supposed to send you ice cream from across the country?" Cane in hand, finger raised in the air, Danielle's response was her first complete sentence in a week: "I am confident that she will find a way." Two days later, the FedEx man delivered four quarts of flash-frozen ice cream to Danielle's door. And the next day, Maggie herself appeared along with Jessica Klaitman, Grace Han, Libby Lewis and a whole crew of friends from Smith.They sat around Danielle's dining room table eating big bowls of Herrells ice cream, reminded of just how good it was.
In the words of a very wise frog, "Life's like a movie. Write your own ending. Keep believing." To the extent that she could control it, Danielle's life was full of brilliant, funny scenes that she wrote for herself and the many people who loved her.
In the last few months of that life, I would often lie awake at night while she slept, occasionally putting my ear to her chest just to make sure she was still breathing. Every time I did this, I heard her heart absolutely pounding. Thankfully, I never woke her up, but if I had, I think she would have said something like, "Yes. Blah, blah, blah." As if to say, "Of course my heart is still beating." Danielle's heart was so big and so strong that it seemed unstoppable. So when it finally did stop, it made no sense to me at all. Because, even in her last days, when she could no longer speak, walk, eat or swallow, she was so alive.
It's been so long since any of us have heard Danielle speak for herself, and it's hard for me to remember a time when she could. So I'd like to end with her own words. Just after college, Danielle made a list of the things she wanted to accomplish in her lifetime. She carried this list around in her wallet for years. By the time she showed it to me last October, she had already accomplished almost everything on it. To me, it says everything about Danielle. So here it is:
1. Quit my day job.
Danielle, I think I can speak for everyone here when I say that to us, you are.
|home * guest book * contribute * updates * in her own words * in memory * album * medical links|