Merrilee died of Alzheimer's at the age of 72. She was exactly a year minus one day younger than I am. I knew her in high school but not well. She was beautiful, generous, smart, humorous, and athletic. She was a cheerleader, a prom queen, a nurse, a teacher, a tennis coach, wife, and mother of six.
If I had only known her in high school, I probably would not have felt compelled to go to the funeral, but I was in her ward for less than two years and I remember a conversation that we had after church one Sunday. A conversation that made me realize (again) how we live in our own realities.
I told her that I wanted to be her when I grew up. She really was quite perfect.
Then she told me how she wanted to be me. She wanted to do what I did: write and draw and sing. She told me she was the only person she knew who didn't get into A-Cappella in high school and it had ruined her for singing.
Well, I doubt it ruined her one twit, but I realized she was telling me a high school failure story, and I wouldn't have dreamed that she had any high school failure stories.
Everyone has a high school failure story. What made her so likable was that she was willing to tell me hers.
The best story told at the funeral:
Her son took a nursing class from her when he was a Freshman at East High. He was anxious that she might embarrass him in some way.
One day, she did. She brought in a capped urine sample, a full cup, and held it up in front of the class. Immediately, he went into anxiety mode. His mother was holding urine in front of his high school class.
Whose urine was it? It must be hers! She was holding her own urine in front of his high school class.
She said that she had added a urine additive that she bought at a local camping store that purified the urine so that you could drink it in a camping emergency.
"Some of you need extra points for this class," she said. "I will give them to you if you take a sip of this purified urine."
Her son may have uttered, "No, no, no, Mom, no."
The class sat, stunned.
Then one brave girl said she needed extra points and would do it. And she did.
The class writhed with empathy.
A long pause and another girl got up. And then another. (According to Merrilee's son, these were all beautiful girls).
It turned out that it was Yellow Mellow with a few raisins in it. I love that disgusting detail of the raisins.
A great teaching moment! I wish I'd thought of bringing a urine sample to one of my classes.
I googled urine additives. Don't do it.
I sat next to my friend, Helen Poelman, who was also a cheerleader. I worked with Merrilee's sister, the beautiful and accomplished, DeeAnn, in Relief Society. She was a cheerleader too.
I am a friend to cheerleaders, both living and dead.