November 14, 2015

Lifting Sandra

I messed things up. I always thought there would be time to sit and have a chat with Sandra Moran. 

We work at the same place. We’re both writers. We know tons of the same people. I knew our lives ran on a parallel track and that sometime they’d cross long enough of us to talk about -- everything.

People who meet Sandra all say the same thing. She makes them feel as if they are the most important person in the room. I admit it always made me uncomfortable when she did that.

Every time I saw her or heard about her, she was rushing from one place to another. Sandra was always giving and teaching and supporting. 

So when she'd do that you're-the-most-important-person-in-the-room thing with me, I’d feel great but I'd also feel a little bit selfish. I knew I was keeping her from the other pressing thing that would eventually pull her away from our stolen moment.

We regularly threatened to meet up when we had time to talk. But I knew there wouldn’t be such a moment unless we were trapped in an elevator or we were in a hotel bar on the last day of a writers conference. Then we’d talk. I’d learn all the things I’ve read this last week about her on social media.

I’d learn that for a short while she lived in Amarillo, Texas. I grew up in Amarillo. We would’ve talked about how weird it is to see someone in KC wearing boots and a cowboy hat but how in Amarillo it was weird to see someone not dressed like that. We’d talk about being queer in Texas and about the food.

We’d talk about working at JCCC since we both started there at the same time. I’d ask her opinion on my story about JCCC’s president harassing women. I’d tell her the whole story, even the stuff I left out because that’s what journalists do. We share those details with our kin. I’d ask about being a speech writer for governor Bill Graves and tell her I ran for a seat in JCCC’s board of trustees. She’d tell me to give it another try and she’d help me. I know she would stay that because that’s how she is.

We’d talk about our mutual friends like Maria Vasquez Boyd, Elizabeth Anderson, and Lisa Ash. We’d tell silly stories about them and probably almost pee our pants because those women are crazy funny. The strangest things just seem to happen to them. We wouldn’t feel guilty because they’re the first to laugh about it.

We’d talk about how we both started writing around the same time and I’d really press her for advice and details on how she made the jump to write her books. I’d tell her about my mom and my sisters because they are the strongest women I know. She’d know that I don’t talk about them to just anyone but having a few drinks in the hotel bar would make me want to share those stories with someone who values and writes about women who are strong and vulnerable.

Then by this time either someone would rescue us from the elevator or the hotel bar would close. We’d promise to meet up again. I don’t know if it would happen but we’d continue to cheer for one another and feel connected even from afar.

I knew there’d be a lot of people at her service. I wasn’t prepared to feel their profound loss. 

Perhaps that’s because just a week earlier the Fabulous Queer Writers had a reading at the LikeMe Lighthouse honoring Sandra’s legacy. We set the intention that the reading would not be mournful but rather a celebration. 

Little did we know our words and hearts were lifting her as she transitioned from this life. 

Hearing people talk about Sandra at the service, I sensed that it will be months before we understand the void she has left in the community. 

All the times she rushed from one event to another, it wasn’t all about promoting her books. Sandra did some heavy lifting on behalf of LGBTQ writers. She educated. She listened. She was there introducing people to Queer Lit and advocating for students and for education.

We were comfortable letting Sandra do that lifting for us. Now we have to be more like Sandra. We have to do that lifting. And we have to try to do her you’re-the-most-important-person-in-the-room thing. 

I’m going to try.  

I'm going to try to be #MoranStrong.