Ren’s Memorial Message

Many people wanted to read what Ren said at mom’s memorial. Here it is!


The last time I saw Joellen, she took my hand and said:

“In twenty years, when I die, I’d like you to say something at my funeral.”
“Only if you promise to do the same at mine,” I said.

We sat for a minute and I told her, “you know Joellen, I didn’t come all the
way out here to say goodbye. I only came all the way out here to say hello.”
Like all of you, I have the privilege to have lived in Joellen’s Universe, a plane
existing somewhere between the fifth and sixth dimensions, where the sound of her laughter is only ever eclipsed by the report of her .357 – where wrong turns on the highway become greater adventures unto themselves – where strangers become lifelong friends. Rarely, if ever, lives a lover of life like Joellen, so how then can I begin to say something that approaches the scope of her effect on all of us?

For starters, look around. I’m willing to bet you see a lot of people here you
know. I’m also willing to bet there are more people here that you don’t know,
people you’ve never seen before – strangers. And we represent only a fraction of the people whose lives intersected with Joellen’s. I used to joke that she collected friends like some people collect stamps or rare coins: in surplus – but each one unique.

No matter where you go with Joellen, you run into someone who knows her:
That cop over there? Knows Joellen. Clergyman from anywhere in the tri-state area? Knows Joellen. Tough looking guy in the leather jacket? Chances are he knows Joellen. People who don’t even speak English…

We exist here, together, in this place and at this exact moment because of
Joellen. She connects us all, like dots, to each other. She is the one definitive thing we all have in common, and yet all of us have been affected by her in different ways. And that’s because Joellen never sat idly by, she tackled life and rolled with it, the whole thing one big adventure, picking us up along the way.

I am endlessly inspired by Joellen, I look at her life and her accomplishments
and I am awed:

Who just writes a book one day and gets it published? Joellen does.
Who takes the weight of unimaginable grief and handles it like a medicine ball, becoming stronger by it rather than folding under it? Joellen does.

Joellen was one of the few people who realized that “strength”
and “optimism” is the same thing, that life isn’t very interesting unless you’re the underdog more than half the same, and that anything can be done just by doing it.

Just by doing it. Carpe Diem comes to mind.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that Joellen changed my life. I couldn’t give
you an exact moment when it happened, there’s a lot to choose from. Some of them I promised not to repeat. And this, this is also a moment where Joellen changes my life. By asking me to say something here at her memorial, she has put into motion these very thoughts, these remembrances of her, this celebration of her life and her lessons.

At then end of her book, Joellen says, “as we walk down the path in life, I
encourage you to remember those who have meant so much to you and to savor those moments whenever you can.” In the spirit of that thought, I would like to use this moment, this moment that Joellen has given us, to do just that. A moment where we all agree that we didn’t come all the way out here just to say goodbye – we only came all the way out here to just say hello.

-Ren Bell

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