Here is the eulogy I offered today at Lee Ann Slayton's memorial service.
This is not something I anticipated this holiday season. And, frankly, I would rather be anywhere but in this moment. But here we are, together, remembering someone who embodied the very spirit of togetherness.
Lee Ann would have loved this gathering. We are her favorite people, from all aspects of her life, together here in her beloved church, in her beloved city. I can’t help but feel her smile.
She loved us all, every last one of us. I know ‘cause she talked about y’all all the time. Lee Ann was rarely quiet, and lord knows we yakked up a storm when we were together. I’ve heard tons about her family throughout our friendship. How much she enjoyed the cross-country drive to La Jolla with her brother, John. How much she loved and cared about her sister, Robin. Little do Jim and Diane know that Lee Ann routinely shared their successful parenting tips, which helped me raise my own daughter countless times. She loved her nieces and nephew passionately … so proud of Ryan, so enjoyed that Rachel lived close enough these last few years to hang out with her. She kept me posted on Megan and Allysa’s soccer games, school achievements, surf camp, college searches ... I can still hear the laughter in her last email, shaking her head ‘cause she had to go on FaceBook to learn about Megan’s gall bladder surgery.
Lee Ann’s stories were so rich I feel like I’ve known her family forever.
She loved the rest of us, too, with great compassion and generosity. She referred work to several of us constantly, even though many would define us as competitors. She’d suggest a new project I’d be perfect for, encouraged me to do something new because she just knew I’d succeed. She learned every new piece of cool software and gadget that came on the market and then she’d patiently teach me how to use it, whether we were together on the road or at our respective homes across the country. There’d we be on the phone, or iChat and she’d be teaching me something brand new. Or showing me something funny. Some days she sent me more emails than I could possibly open, each and every one a shining nugget designed specifically to help me: “This made me think of you,” she’d say ... Or “Here’s a link to that thing we were just talking about.” …. “This has you written all over it,” she’d write, and I could imagine her smile.
For many of us she started as a trusted colleague and became one of our closest friends.
Oh, she knew my flaws, too, and she didn’t always let me get away with them, especially if my flaws got in the way of what she saw as my magnificence.
While she never ever judged, she always encouraged me to achieve my potential, to grow and expand my life exponentially. Even when (or especially when) I kind of wanted her to quit telling me what to do. But that was Lee Ann. She was always about action, and even when I felt a little bossed around, she was always right.
Lee Ann was about defining what you want and then making it happen. She put that photo of La Jolla on her screen saver, and every day imagined living here, until it finally fell into place, almost like magic. The last several months she reinvigorated her already-successful business with such commitment and pure joy she left me both inspired and breathless. It wasn’t about money or market-share – instead she’d recently found new ways to help vastly more people, and she couldn’t wait to share it. I’d never seen her more excited about her work and her passions.
She believed with all her heart that people’s lives could be transformed for the better, and her optimism and enthusiasm were contagious. Every single person I’ve had the honor of talking with since Lee Ann’s passing said the same thing: she had such vitality, such a spark, she was such a special person, so kind and warm and encouraging. The day after she died I made a list of all my dreams and goals that have sort of scared me, that have felt too risky or too far from my comfort zone. And in her honor I have vowed to do every last one. To quote Lee Ann’s new website, I invite you to join me in finding better ways to connect and share what works, to reduce our struggles to that we can help others ease theirs.
Lee Ann also gave voice to any unspoken thought in the room, and so she would want us to acknowledge together our shock and grief at her sudden death. She would have also wanted everyone to feel comforted, regardless of our different beliefs about the passing of a life, the nature of our souls, and our personal faiths. In preparing this eulogy I have searched for something that might offer us all a common image from which each of us can subsequently build our own sense of peace. And so, I have found this simple description: As Thanksgiving began – a day dedicated to gratitude – Lee Ann Slayton’s heart outgrew her body, allowing her to share more of her love.