Saying Goodbye

My friend in New Mexico died on March 11th of this year. It was a long death. It took her eight months to go from the crippling horse wreck to the place where she finally had to let go. She was in and out of being who she was, away for a time in a neverland of unresponsiveness and from the time of the accident, never able to walk again. She went through setback after setback, but somehow rallied enough to survive, although never quite to live again. In the last months she regained most of her mental faculties, even calling me from her last reassigned “home” in Texas to speak to me in a familiar voice and a seemingly restored mind. I was floored. She imagined a future for herself,  inviting me, even commanding me to come see her when she got out of there and got her new home built. I suppose we all allowed her these dreams, knowing there was no way it could ever come to be. After that the latest round of setbacks took her, and she finally slipped away in her sleep, a blessing to all of us, but I don’t know if she’d ever say that for herself. She was broken in a hundred pieces, and she couldn’t be put back together again.

It is truly the end of an era, and the ripples that have ensued from her accident became tsunamis for those closest to her. The ranch is already sold and in new hands. The horses are gone, the dogs have new homes. No more summer visits. No more sitting with coffee on the big front porch watching the sun rise over the mountains. No more gifts of pinon coffee for Christmas. No more horse pictures. Some lives have been much more disrupted than mine, and soon there will be none of the characters left at the Diamond L. Her friends living on the property have lost their home along with their friend, and must renegotiate their lives and move away. It is a sad story, as most are when it comes to things like this.

Today is the memorial service for my friend. As it would happen, I am unable to be there because I am in complete art show mode, leaving soon for another adventure in making a living. Just no way to throw in a trip to New Mexico and be two places at once. Her ashes will be spread Up Top overlooking the ranch, facing the east. I spent untold hours up there, thinking one of these days I’d be building and living there, too. Never happened, and now it’s for the best. Things change. People die. And the rest of us move on.

I sent these words to be read at the memorial today, along with a few pictures of her that meant a lot. Some of you who read this knew my friend, and have spent time with me and her in New Mexico. Some have only heard the stories and the dreams. I offer it here because I can’t be there, and it is my way of saying goodbye.

 

Linda Parade

My Friend Linda

May 3, 2016

 

A harder head was never hatched. It’s because of that hard head that we are all here today, in whatever form that takes, gathered because we cared about this lady, who was decidedly different.

I am always drawn to different people. The “Normals” bore me, and Linda fit the criteria for not being at all normal. I suppose in horse talk she gave something like a Strong Rein, if there is such a term. There was not much telling Linda that something was different than the way she thought it was, and I bet all of us have our own versions of that story.

This little ranch happened to all of us because it is what LInda wanted, and by golly she got it. A bunch of years ago we were caught climbing around Up Top over the house on the day that Linda signed the papers, I think. She was accompanied by two other ladies and a handful of dogs. Ranch ladies and their ranch dogs. Yes indeed. For a while I thought I’d be living up there, but that never quite happened.

Many characters came and went in Linda’s life out here. There were times when it was almost like going to the movies to come visit. There have been cowboy-like ruffians that gave Linda some hell, but she was always taking on strays and hoping for a good outcome. Mostly they all took advantage of her. Linda was a bunch of things, but I have to say she was always fair. And likely gave too much.

Because of Linda I’ve had a place to stay for so many summers while I chased the art circus. She has been a wonderful patron, and I was so happy to have my work in her home. That’s how we met. Back in the late 90’s I came out to do the Ruidoso show and she bought two pieces from me, and ordered more. She pulled out a credit card that had collies on it, and there we went. I asked if I could come and see her collies – she lived in town then – and we went. There’s a picture of me from a subsequent visit with a beautiful tri-color that I would take home with me some six years later. Collin was a beautiful spirit, and I was so happy to have him.

Because of Linda I had more time to trek through the area and become a part of some of the local color from time to time. We sold art in Lincoln and watched Linda and the crew do the Billy the Kid parade, and tear it up at the reenactment show and shootout.

Because of Linda I got to ride a big red mule through the Nogal Peak wilderness, and lived to tell about it.

Because of Linda I got to see the Flying J singers and have so many fun evenings with all bunches of folk.

Because of Linda I had a place to stay while doing the Cowboy Symposium and got to hang out with cookout people. That was interesting.

Because of Linda I was able to bring friends to share in the companionship and madness. I brought artists and alcoholics, and we had even more interesting evenings. I brought boyfriends and road buddies. I still have the road buddies. Everyone was made so welcome, for Linda loved having company. And holding court. Nothing was much better than Steak Night, or Linda’s chili, with everything cut in small pieces, or salad with Mayfair dressing, and why don’t I have the recipe?

Linda’s home was always open. As was her heart. She came on as one tough cookie, but you could melt her once in a while. She cried when we gave her the Prince Shannon lamp. That was a nice moment. I wish there were more.

I am the lucky one because I get to Say Goodbye without the tears and having to Go To and Leave the ranch one last time. I’ve already done that. When I pulled out last July, it was for the final time. Linda was already gone, and the ranch was already losing its spirit. I wish I could be there with you, with Linda’s friends, so we could all say Goodbye together. As we all have found out, it takes but a fractured moment for everything to change and sometimes you don’t even get to say goodbye.

I’m so mad at Linda for taking that ride. But I looked at a picture of her today that showed her sitting comfy and in her element driving the rig, and Buck and Ben, in one of the Smokey Bear parades. Yep, she did it her way. And deciding to drive that rig on July 14th was her way of trying to have it her way, wanting it to be like it was. Wanting her life back on her terms. And that was then and this is now, and here we all are. Dang it Linda. You were a force. And never one to give up. Tough old broad. But this one got you.

You have to admit, this is quite a cast of characters among us. I wish I could be there to see every one of them, and the ones I never met. Linda told me I needed to meet Dave. I never did. Thank you, Dave, for being there for her. You were her hero. Thank you Lynn. For EVERYTHING you did. You were her true friend.

And Becky. For everything else. And Mary Lou, and Marilyn. And any and everyone else I don’t know to say.

There’s a little piece of purple fabric under a rock by a special tree Up Top there. It was always my place holder. I have to hold the place in my heart now. There are rocks up there that I arranged. And there are rocks here that I carried home. And wood. And cholla. And memories. How I wish I could be there so we could tell stories. You know there will be stories…..about Linda. What a character. I am grateful to have been her friend, and wish I could have given her more. She was something.

Wagons Ho, Linda. Ride on.

 

 

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4 Responses to “Saying Goodbye”

  1. Susie Fowler Says:

    Lovely Alexa, I didn’t know her but I’m crying to read that another creative wild force has passed. As well, the conga man from Beto y Lia Fairlaines, Arturo Garza, died of a heart attack last night. Totally unexpected. My heart grieves these losses. Love to you and best of all rewards from your upcoming shows. Susie

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Queenie Says:

      We are losing them right and left. So many this year already. I knew we are getting older and should expect these things, but even so we are never ready, never quite prepared. Thank you for your thoughts and well wishes. The very same to you, and may we find some play time soon.

  2. What a beautiful and moving tribute to your dear friend. I’m not one for tears but that really tugged at my heart.

    You are a great friend

    Suzanne Mathia Suzanne Mathia Photography http://www.suzannemathiaphotography.com http://www.southwestperspectives.com smathiaphoto@gmail.com (602)769-7533

    >

    • Queenie Says:

      Great friends wish they could see more of the friends they have! And that would include you.

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