This is hard for me to write, but I feel compelled to do so. My dear, funny, witty, caring, larger-than-life, loved-her-like-a-sister friend, Debi Weaver, died in a small plane crash early this morning, along with her husband John and daughter Courtney. The immensity of the loss has not yet sunk in. I loved them all.
I have known Debi for a quarter of a century, almost half my life, and it wasn’t nearly long enough. We both had daughters named Courtney, who became lifelong friends, and we met as co-leaders of their Brownie troup in Wichita Falls. I could not know then what a transformative meeting that would be. Debi was boisterous and outgoing and funny as all get out. You just wanted to be around her. The more we got know each other, the better I liked her. One day, not long into our friendship, on our first of many girl trips together, she said, “You know, you’re hysterical, but no one knows it. You don’t let anyone see it. Girl, you’ve got to get over that shyness and let your light shine.” Those words changed my life. Not overnight, because at first I didn’t believe her, but she was the first person to ever tell me I was funny. I’d never thought of myself that way before. You could say she gave me my funny. She was also the first person to encourage me to write it all down in a travelogue…long before there were laptops or iPads.
As the months went on, Debi introduced me to her friends. Hell, half the people I now call friends are people I met through her. She would introduce me as her “funny friend, Sherreé” then add “but she doesn’t think so, so you’ll have to pull it out of her”…and she continued to pull it out of me, forcing me out of my comfort zone until I began to believe it, and in the process came to believe I might have something to say that other people might want to hear. The sometimes funny, more outgoing and happier me sprang from 25 years of cheerleading from my dear friend. That was a great gift and a debt I could never repay. But the amazing thing about all that is, ask any one of her friends and they’re sure to have a similar story. She made a difference in each life she touched. She was simply a force of nature.
John was in the oil business and they moved all over the state. Debi never lost friends along the way, as most would, she kept what she had wherever she went and added more. We followed her from place to place like bees to honey, because you just wanted to be around her. Her philosophy was that you never have too many friends. Our friend, Debbie Anderson, always said she was “a collector of friends,” and she was. Debi had a hundred best friends, no one better than another. Even if you hadn’t talked for weeks, you always picked right back up, without missing a beat, and would be laughing at some story within 15 seconds. And Debi was the best storyteller of them all, most of them at her own expense. One of my favorites was about her giving up pedicures because she had bought satin sheets and her rough heels were the only thing keeeping her from sliding out of bed at night. What kind of person throws her own surprise birthday party or dons a mile high beehive wig and tiara as a Sweet Potato Queen? When asked at a convenience store if we knew each other, who could convince strangers that our Queen group, dressed in awful identical vests, were a group of cloggers? That would be Debi in a nutshell.
If Debi was your friend, she was bound to be one of your biggest supporters. She was good at so many things but she excelled at being your own personal cheerleader. She had a way of encouraging people to be the best versions of themselves. She built all of us up but never at the expense of anyone else. And she was our organizer and glue that kept us all together. She planned girl trips and weekends and made sure we made time for each other. If a child got married, or a grand child was born, if there was a death in the family or a bad diagnosis, Debi was the one who rallied the troops to show up on your doorstep. I hope that each group of her friends will continue that tradition in her honor. It won’t be the same, but that is what she would want.
Debi loved her kids. Courtney had her mom’s personality and her dad’s good looks and got involved in her community wherever she went. Like her mom, I don’t know anyone who didn’t like her. She was fun loving but also tenderhearted. She adopted a rescue dog that was both deaf and blind and nursed her through numerous surgeries, giving that pup a wonderful life. If I know Debi, she is probably pissed that Courtney was with them. John was so quiet that it was hard to get to know him, but somehow over the years, I did. I always joked that I didn’t know if he was really that quiet or if he just couldn’t get a word in edgewise when Debi got together with friends. It was definitely a case of opposites attracting, but it worked well for them because there was love there. To her remaining son, Stephen, I hope you know how much she loved you and that she never would have wanted to leave you alone. She had many friends from all walks of life and we are all here for whatever support you might need. Take advantage of that help, please. Not only will you benefit but it will give the people who loved your family a way to honor them.
The last time I talked to Debi she told me that things were good and she was happier than she’d been in years. I take comfort in that. My life was made immeasurably better for having had her as a friend for so many years. I wasn’t ready to let her go. She will be missed by every life she touched, which are legion. Years ago, I told my family that if anything ever happened to me there were a few friends that I wanted to be seated with family, because they were my chosen family. Debi was one of them. That seat will now sit empty, just as I feel. I’m crying and so very sad. I just can’t wrap my head around it yet. I can almost hear Debi saying, “Okay, be sad for a few days. In fact, I WANT you to cry…I’m giving you a week, then you better buck up and laugh when you think of me. A week. That’s it. Promise me.” Sorry girlfriend, I think it’s going to take longer than that. Much longer.