Thursday, September 2, 2010
A belated eulogy for Wendi Roper
I have so many thoughts whirling through my mind today. The tragic news of Wendi's death and the approaching hurricane along the Eastern seaboard where I reside reminds me of the perpetual nearness of mortality. My life could easily pass this weekend, but that awareness must not paralyze me in my daily activities. I have to make sure I stay healthy, and drive away from the hurricane if it gets too close, and treat my life with the respect and value it has inherently.
Wendi Roper's life gave me life. During my junior and senior year at Olivet Nazarene University, Wendi was a steadfast friend. She loved me when others rejected me due of my sexuality. Wendi and I were inseparable my senior year: working at Lonestar Steakhouse, quoting Zoolander, taking roadtrips, wondering together what it will be like when we lose our virginity (with someone other than each other), planning our lives together... I spent so much time with her that I paid tribute to that fact in the activities profile of my senior yearbook. Look-up the 2002 ONU yearbook; I list "WCBS" among other legitimate campus activities, in honor of an inside joke with Wendi, which I presume she took with her to the grave.
I remember an unseasonably warm February 19, 2001, when Wendi wished to honor my 21st birthday. Olivet is "dry" campus, and I had never had liquor anyway (other than sips from my mother's wine glass with her permission). Wendi cleverly purchased Daiquiri Ice from Baskin Robbin's, a popular Midwestern ice cream chain. It took me a long time to eat it, so I arrived to choir practice late. The dirty look and loss of clout gained from our unpleasant choral conductor was well worth the extra time with Wendi.
Wendi also taught me how to respect myself and listen to my body. She was my first friend to own a pair of "butt jeans," and she introduced me to the tanning salon. That was a short-lived fad for me, though I think maybe she continued without me.
In every single picture I have from my graduation, she appears in it with my mother and father. She is my family of choice.
I also remember preaching at her Nazarene church in Peoria for a weekend (three services, I believe). The sanctuary was very warm in the Sunday evening service, and the people were inattentive. Yet, Wendi sat in the front pew like a dear family member and complimented me afterward.
The last time I saw Wendy, she was in the hospital. Like my mother, Wendi had worked in, been a patient in, and died in a hospital. She worked as an intern, then as an advocate, then as a social worker, also as a patient, and an active participant with a recovery program. I note irony when health care and social service providers lose their lives in the institutions that once relied on their healing abilities. In fact, my mother was on her way to heal others at the hospital when her car crashed. I am still unclear on the circumstances surrounding Wendi's "accident." Regardless of how it happened, she ended her life a devoted churchgoer, a talented waitress, an empathetic social worker, and an irreplaceable friend. No one can replace her and who she was for me.
May your coma-tormented body and your larger-than-life soul find peace, and may you family find closure and rest. I love you always and will miss you, my dear Wendi.