The Presidio, San Francisco, CA
June 21, 2002
I was solicited to speak first, but I actually chickened out, which is unlike me. One of the reasons is that I was asking myself, "What is the quintessential Danielle story I want to tell?" But there are so many, and who is going to think it's entertaining that we were walking down the street and she made me laugh, or that she kicked my butt in dominoes? Well, it's very entertaining to me, but....
What I keep hearing today, and what is so true, is that Danielle lived more fully than most. I very much hope we can all emulate that kind of living every single day. In Hebrew, l'chiam means "to life", and it's a toast. So raise a glass or an ice cream or a brownie or a fig newton.
Here's to Danielle! We love you. L'chiam.
August 8, 2002
I think about D every day. I tell lots of stories about her to anyone who will listen. She is one of the few people in my life
I can remember seeing for the first time. I have found that most of the people Danielle knew can say the same thing. Danielle was a year ahead of me at Smith and, therefore, had special wisdom as to the ways of the world in my mind. She was the DJ at a party I went to during the first week of school. What an amazing presence. She made you want to dance, to have fun, to meet people, to flirt, to be so very alive. Danielle had the coolest friends. They always looked like they were having so much fun. I was totally in awe of her. Not much has changed. We started chatting whenever we ran into each other at the bookstore, downtown, at parties, etc. I would always try to go over to the DJ table and say hello if she was there. At Danielle's memorial service, Jessica Klaitman said that Danielle made everyone feel loved and important when she was talking to them. I can't even express how true that is. She always wanted to know how you were doing, what was going on, were you having any fun. She was so easy to talk to and never made you feel stupid or weird about anything that you were thinking. When I was still afraid of liking girls and not talking to anyone about it, I could talk to Danielle. She always listened and smiled and had good advice. She was also one of the biggest flirts I have ever known. Enough said.
During my senior year at Smith, I was taken to judicial board, which for a goody-two-shoes like me was a major trauma. I ran into Danielle downtown, and we went for ice cream. She made me laugh about the whole experience and put it into perspective--judicial board is certainly not of consequence when you are a superstar-in-training.
We continued meeting up with each other at the most random places, and I began to think of her as a sort of smiling angel of travel. I was always sure to see her, or someone who knew her, anywhere I went: Kansas City, Chicago, Boston. In between seeing one another in person, we would email silly stuff back and forth.
When Danielle was diagnosed and had her first surgery, I was in my first year of medical school, in the middle of gross anatomy. The course ended the day before the 2000 presidential election, and I was on a plane the next day to see my peeps in San Francisco. I got to spend a lot of time with Danielle on that trip. Beth Ambrose was staying with her while I was there, and it was fun to see them together and to meet Beth. I picked Danielle up to go to the hospital, and she showed me the best donut shop in the city, which was supposed to be our secret because she was just beginning to change her eating habits (no donuts). So, apparently, I was a bad influence. We went to the hospital for the treatment, and although she had only been to this particular office once or twice before, she already knew everyone there.
My family, friends, life, work, school, and Danielle brought me to to San Francisco many times in the last two years. Each time I came to town, I made sure to see Danielle. One trip I made in March 2001 was particularly memorable because I had splurged and rented a red Mustang convertible to drive down the California coast with my partner, Jodi. We spent a day with Danielle in San Fran, running errands in the car, and then Danielle gave Jodi the most amazing tour of the city while I drove. D just told me where to turn. We had a blast. I got to come back through for Pride, and ended up spending most of the weekend with Danielle. During the Dyke March, I introduced Danielle to some folks I knew from NYC and Chicago, and of course, she already knew them. I had never been to San Francisco Pride, and Danielle made me--to be honest she didn't really have to twist my arm--get up super early so we could get a good spot on the parade route. We were so early, we couldn't find any open bagel shops! Everyone else met us later, and we had a fabulous day. The next day, I showed up for a chemo treatment at UCSF, and got to spend the afternoon with Dithy and Danielle. I read Harry Potter to them, and they both fell asleep. It was incredibly cute and cemented my love for Dithy.
There are so many other stories to tell. I want to share one last one, my most favorite and most special. The last time I saw Danielle was when she first moved into Zen Hospice. I had been hanging around for a few days, and it was time for me to leave. I had spent most of the morning with Danielle, just the two of us. Her speech was deteriorating at that point, but we were still able to communicate. She taught me to play dominoes--and beat me repeatedly. We played about a zillion games, and I chattered away telling stories, which she smiled and laughed at. Eventually, another friend showed up, so I decided that I would make Danielle breakfast and give them some alone time. Danielle requested oatmeal with blueberries, maple syrup and flaxseed. For those of you who know me, you know that I am incapable of making small amounts of anything. So I brought her this enormous bowl of oatmeal. I mean, it was huge. Blueberries falling all over the place. Her eyes got really big, and she laughed and shook her head at me. Slowly but surely, she ate the whole thing, which was amazing. It was getting close to the time I had to leave to catch my plane, and I didn't want to go, because I knew this was going to be the last time I'd ever see her. She clearly knew how I felt, and kept reaching over to hold my hand. I felt like such an imbecile--she was comforting ME! Finally, I got up to leave, gave her a big hug and whispered in her ear how much I loved her. Then I tried to make a stupid joke and act all cool. She took me by my shoulders, held me at arm's length, looked me right in the eye and said, clear as day, "I love you, Pippa," and gave me another hug. That moment is one of the most incredible gifts I have ever been given.
I miss her tremendously and think about her every day. I am lucky to know that nothing went unsaid between us and that she knew exactly how I felt about her and vice versa. I have since tried to take that with me and be a better friend, be in touch more, and tell people every day that I love them. Thank you, D. You are a superstar.