As far back as I can remember, you have been in my life. My mom tells me that you were at my first birthday party, the first of many celebrations we would share throughout our lives. Our friendship began as two little girls playing with baby dolls, who we later abandoned for Barbie and Ken dolls, who we eventually ditched for our newest interest -- BOYS! So many boys had a crush on you, from early grade school days through high school. But who could blame them? You had a face like an angel. You were flirty. A jokester. Fun and daring. AND you were sweet, caring and kind. I think that's why, in spite of being envious that guys followed you around like lost puppy dogs, girls couldn't hate you. You were just so nice!
Flynnie, I hope you smile as I share some memories from our childhood. These little snapshots in time make ME smile as I remember how fun and exciting it was to be with you , no matter what we were doing. In fact, if you had a theme song it might be "Lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy!"
First, here is a bad girl story. We are at Mark's bar mitzvah party which is in the synagogue's party room. You and I leave the party and sneak into the junior congregation sanctuary to make out with our boyfriends who are waiting for us on the bimah. We are scared to death that God is going to strike us down with lightening and we feel really, really guilty, although that doesn't shorten our make out session!
Story number two: "A Picnic Surprise". We're about 14 or 15 and we're at your house packing a picnic lunch to take on a hike into the woods with our boyfriends. These of course are different boyfriends than in the previous story. Your mom suggests that we take a special dessert as a prank on the boys. We think it's a great idea. After a lovely all American lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips and apples, we ask the boys if they want to try a special dessert. They anxiously say "yes" probably with something else in mind. We open up a pop top can and hand them what appears to be unusually shaped small chunks of chocolate and then we stifle our giggles as we wait for them to take a bite. After both boys have finished swallowing, you and I burst out laughing and shout "YOU GUYS JUST ATE CHOCOLATE COVERED ANTS!!!"... I think they broke up with us on the spot. It's funny though and what's just as funny is wondering where did your mom buy chocolate covered ants and why?
Story number three: "Just Dance". You, Donna and I are in the main sanctuary at the synagogue practicing for our triple bat mitzvah. You declare that it 's important we not only practice chanting our Hebrew prayers and reciting our speeches, but that we also practice walking up and down the ten steps leading to the bimah. After all, you remind us, we 're going to be nervous on our bat mitzvah day and need to be prepared for anything, which in your crazy, fun world translates to choreographing a dance in case we need to cover up from tripping on our way up or down the steps.
So, we spend most of our time making up dances on the steps to the bimah, instead of standing on the bimah reading our Hebrew! Fortunately or unfortunately, none of us get to show off our dance moves - we all manage the steps without a problem. Our problem, however, besides each of us waking up that morning with a zit in the middle of our foreheads, is fighting the urge to look at each other and laugh hysterically when Rabbi Hyatt addresses us as he does with all bar and mitzvah, rocking up and down on his heels saying: " My dear bat mitzvah, today is your bat mitzvah..."
Flynne, I cherish that day when you, Donna and I became bat mitzvah sisters.
There's another story, but it's not appropriate to tell in a group setting. So, come see me later if you want to hear about the pickle bag.
Flynne, while many boys had crushes on you, nothing made me happier than when you found the true love of your life. You and Bob built such a beautiful life together, raised extraordinary children and developed an amazing network of friends. I have learned that people we love never really go away. Your love lives on through those you leave behind and through all the good you created in this world. I will always love you, my dear bat mitzvah sister.
When we think of Flynne, our dear friend of almost 23 years, the words just seem to flow. Words about what an incredible person she was and the example she set just by being herself. We were struck by her grace and gentleness, and her limitless capacity for caring about others. She formed powerful and lasting friendships and never let distance or time come between her and her many circles of friends. She always called on your birthday, asked us to let her know if we arrived safely when we traveled, and wanted to hear all about our trips when we got back, and we mean ALL. She was genuinely interested. Following one recent rainy Hawaiian vacation, two friends received texts that read, “dear Hawaiian tropical rain goddesses, wanted to welcome you back to sunny Seattle. Really missed you & can’t wait to see you! Love, Flynne.”
Flynne had a generosity of spirit that she incorporated into every aspect of her life, and that generosity extended to everything on the planet. She was ahead of her time in “thinking green” – re-purposing items and keeping things “just in case” she found further uses for them. She loved shopping and would touch everything, especially fabric; not to buy, but for the tactile experiences and ideas that came from doing so. She had her own sense of style, for example: a pair of pants, just a simple t-shirt, the perfect scarf and great shoes. She knew herself so well.
Flynne was always quick to embrace new ideas, whether it was magnetic mattresses and shoe supports or anything. When she became sick, she was not afraid to try new things to help her heal – yoga, chi qong, herbal teas, ginger chews, etc. If she thought it would help, she was game!
When we were raising our daughters, we would look to Flynne for sage advice, marveling at her patience in dealing with free-spirited Aynsley and Ross’s food challenges. Aynsley spray painted her car? Flynne loved the colors. Ross was on his 2,643, 502 peanut butter sandwich? At least it was protein. She knew not to sweat the small stuff and we looked up to her. She had an innate sense of how to deal with teenage angst and we wanted to emulate her. She made us all want to be better – better parents, better women, better friends. She had the most positive attitude! Even when she fought the hardest battle imaginable, she never complained.
Time with Flynne was a gift, never more so than during this past year. We cherished our special visits with her – when time and space were suspended and all that mattered was being together, gentle touches and always, always lots of “I love yous”.
Flynne embodied attributes that each of us will cherish forever:
* say “thank you”
* respect everyone
* stay positive
* laughter is always appropriate
* graciously receive love, support and help
* you can rise above your circumstances
* don’t give up
* cherish your health
* don’t put it off, whatever “it” is – do it
And the only thing left to say is what we all already know: Flynne made it easy to love her – we do and we always will.
Whenever Flynnie's name is mentioned, even among people who only met her a few times, the typical response is “Flynne, what a sweetheart!” That she was: a sweetheart in every way. Everyone admired her natural beauty, her smile that lit up a room, her easygoing Midwest charm, her natural athleticism and her love of outdoor adventures—particularly those that involved water, biking, hiking and sunshine.
On many occasions, we thought this girl must have been a dolphin or a mermaid in a former life - she took to the water as though she had gills. One of Fynnie’s favorite summer weekend activities was playing on our dock in Lake Washington. After her morning chores, Flynne would arrive at our front door, towel in hand, armed with a book and fresh figs, or whatever treat she had scored at the farmer’s market that morning. She would walk through the front door, eye the lake, and dart right out the back door picking up speed. Within seconds we would see and hear a splash. Flynne had leaped off the dock—in perfect diving form I might add–and before long we would see a little blond head bobbing and squealing with delight in Lake Washington.
If there was an activity on or in the water, she was all over it. One year, Seattle Parks and Recreation offered windsurfing classes. Flynne said, “Count me in.” I thought I might have to provide a little extra tutoring for her since I had taken sailing lessons already. What was I thinking? She had a natural understanding of tacking, jibing and wind patterns. Not surprisingly, she outpaced me and everyone else in the class and was sailing across the water in no time. She said she loved the wind in her hair and the feeling that it was like walking on water. I was convinced that she could sail from our dock to Mercer Island in a cocktail dress, and walk off her sailboard bone dry.
Flynne would drive Bob to distraction with her athletic antics every once in awhile. If you know Bob, you also know that he is far more comfortable on the greens than in the water. But in the afternoons, after his pilgrimage to Newcastle, Bob would arrive on the dock, too. In his inimitable protective way, Bob would carry the sailboard to the water’s edge for Flynne, and strongly suggest that she not go out of his sight. Once Flynne was afloat, he would watch her like a hawk from the dock. But one time the wind beckoned Flynnie south and out of Bob's visual field. Panicking, Bob came running to the house to assemble a rescue mission with the speed boat. It didn't take long to find Flynnie. She was fine, taking a little break while floating on the sailboard, just soaking in the sun and wondering what all the fuss was about.
Any body of water was fair game for Flynne. One summer following a concert at the Gorge, several families caravanned to Soap Lake in Eastern Washington. Upon learning that the mud in Soap Lake had rich mineral properties that rejuvenated your skin, she galloped into the Lake, despite its sulphurous odor, and within minutes had slathered her body with mud, all the while laughing and frolicking, summoning the rest of us to mud-up. Fresh water, salt water, all of it was her playground.
Speaking of salt water, Flynne loved to travel to foreign lands. She relished her trips with Bob and her business trips to Asia. When she traveled to Israel, one of the high points was floating on top of the water in the Dead Sea. And during a trip to Vietnam, she rode on a Vietnamese wooden fishing boat to take her to Ha Long Bay, where she continued to explore the Karst Islands in a tiny sea kayak so that she could experience the small channels. She was ecstatic.
No river was too scary or too rapid for Flynnie. One river rafting trip on the Tieton was particularly frightful. When the rest of us were clutching the lines for dear life, knuckles white, there was Flynne with her arms in the air, squealing with delight like a teen on her first roller coaster.
Her love of the outdoors extended far beyond water. She loved long walks and hikes. She was always cajoling the rest of us to plod up Somerset, following her like she was a Sherpa that couldn’t care less about elevation. In fact, last Thanksgiving, which was right before her diagnosis, she organized a hike with her friends and family into the foothills of Palm Springs, outpacing all of them. If Flynne happened to pass an appealing pasture while she was on a hike or a bike ride, she would be on that field in a heartbeat, performing her signature maneuver – the Kirshenbaum cartwheel -- whooping it up the whole time. Imagine a fifty-something woman who could still do a nonstop sequence of perfect cartwheels, just like a high school cheerleader! We all thought she would be doing cartwheels at 90.
She participated in several bike races to raise money for MS in addition to her pleasure rides–the trail around South Seattle to Seward Park was her favorite. I couldn’t keep up with her anymore, so I bought myself a hybrid bike that allowed me to supplement peddle power with electric power through a battery pack attached to the bike. One time we rode from downtown Seattle through Magnolia, with Discovery Park in mind as our destination. But halfway up an arduous hill, Flynnie’s bike chain broke. She didn’t want to end the day without seeing the magnificent Olympic mountain vista, so she hopped on the back of my electric bike like a schoolgirl and pointed uphill. I put my hybrid into high gear and we coursed up that hill like Bonnie and Clyde, laughing all the way.
Everyone here has been touched by our sweetheart Flynne. I haven’t even begun to talk about how talented she was as a designer and seamstress, or how much she loved the theatre, the arts, reading, sustainability, locally grown food, her family, rock and roll, and the naked bicycle riders in the Fremont summer solstice parade. Not to mention her killer matzo ball soup. But given the people here, her remarkable kids, the outpouring of love, the steady flow of memories that people shared in the blog, all of us here have experienced her extraordinary spirit. And for the rest of our lives, whenever we watch the fireworks or the Blue Angels flying over Lake Washington, or see a graceful windsurfer, a beautiful organic strawberry, or a talented yoga instructor, we will remember Flynnie: her classic deep chuckle, her smiling eyes and her dolphin-like squeal.
Flynne and Bob were soul mates, each the love of the other’s life, but she was everyone’s sweetheart.