As funerals go, it wasn't bad at all. A hundred people crowded into the small chapel and rose occasionally for standing ovations, a fitting tribute to a cabaret singer. Her friends, including a well-known Carol Channing impersonator she met while they were buying dresses at the same shop, got up one by one and spoke about people, process, and performing, Dottie's passions. The journey--learning and rehearsing, drafting the best possible words, struggling to let go of a little control so her real self could shine through--were her favorite parts of life, with being on stage a nice side benefit but really not as important. She was an excellent high school English teacher, they said, but during all those years only wanted to sing. And she finally did, at an age when most women wouldn't be caught dead wearing a tight sequined dress.
I usually don't cry at funerals. I hold everything in for fear of completely unraveling, which happens once I get home. But not crying, this time, seemed disrespectful to Dottie, a woman who worked very hard to express exactly what was on her mind. I cried because I had no more chances to get to know her better and because I never made it to one of her concerts, since I figured she sang words I could read on a Hallmark card. I was, once again, a snob. I listened to her friends speak of Dottie's love of performing and thought about how, until I began to call it "praying," I never wanted people to hear me. Dottie knew all along that praying and performing could be the same, as long as you were honest.
I also cried for fear of not being able to say, one day at the end of my own life, what Dottie told friends the week before she died: I did just what I was meant to do. I didn't miss a thing.