For Love of Pam
May 7, 1957 – November 7, 2021
We are all filled with contradictions, but when it came to Pam, she wrote the book. She was full up with feelings, strong feelings. There were no empty spaces. Joy and sorrow, kindness and rage, healing and hurts, forgiveness and revenge, pride and shame, laughter and outrage, tenderness and a will of iron, empathy and dismissal, courage and timidity, hope and despair, and, yes, love and hate. Those and countless more are the feelings others saw. Her feelings empowered her and sometimes hindered her. She wore them on her sleeve. Our love allowed me to very occasionally glimpse a reservoir of emotions she kept locked away that none of us, including me, could fathom.
Pam was often described as all-in. If she was your friend, she was all-in. She loved you and was there for you always. End of story. If she was your enemy, she was all-in. She was a honey-badger and you were the snake. End of story. Usually for the snake.
Once, when asked, Pam told me her life’s mission was fighting bullies. Her actions tell me that it was much broader. She fought injustice at every level with every breath she took, fueled by intense emotions that many of us would be afraid to feel. At the Postal Service, she saved countless unfairly jeopardized careers, working to exhaustion and often risking her own career to do it. She used her uncanny penchant for detail to fight back with obscure rules buried deep in policies that gave legal backing to the worker’s side of the case, often and satisfyingly to management’s surprise. Someday I’ll tell you about Pigeon Poop-Gate.
In politics she worked tirelessly to fight institutional bullying. There she did not fight so much for policy, but to elect like-thinking people who had the courage and skills and heart to turn policies into reality. She was all-in for the cause. And if she felt those champions were her friends too . . .well, see above.
Marriage. It is useless to try to describe the joy in our love. But Pam was also tickled pink to be married and would want this listed first. She always described our wedding day as the happiest day of her life. She would refer to me as “my wife” when I was standing right there and the person knew me. Drove me nuts. I would give anything to hear that again. Although she would deny it, I suspect I had a close competitor – music.
Music. Pam was music incarnate. She listened, wrote, played, sang, collected, and supported music. We even briefly had a little house band called the “WouldBeGoods”. Once, while she was taking guitar lessons, the instructor asked for songs they wanted to learn. She had her guitar in her hand as she talked passionately to me about Chuck Berry, who had just died, and about how she wanted to learn to play “Johnny Be Good.” The whole time she talked, she was unaware her hands were playing “Johnny Be Good” on the guitar.
When she was four years old, she sat mesmerized through a whole opera on television. When she talked about her wonderful two years in New York City after college, disco music was always center stage. When she took me to a Dolly Parton, or Loretta Lynn, or Cher concert I would sometimes think how everyone is probably feeling sorry for her because I must have dragged her there. If you are reading this, I do not have to mention blues or jazz. Our yearly Blues Cruise was one week of unadulterated joy for both of us, Pam for the music and me for seeing her joy. Whittling down her CD collection meant giving away eight and re-arranging the other hundreds.
Story: Pam’s wonderful storytelling mother, Lois Burrell was Pam’s hero. Pam absorbed story at her side, but never wanted to tell. She recognized and appreciated a good story, either one she heard or one from her own life, but she never told. Until, of course, she told at the Moth, won the Slam, won the Denver GrandSlam, traveled to New York for the gala to tell a one-minute version, and was published in the Reader’s Digest. She never told publicly again. She said she wanted to retire at the height of her powers, but I think she felt that the courage it took to stand up there and bare her modest private soul was accomplishment enough. Her storytelling was through her music, and through the inspiration she gave to me in my own storytelling and writing. In our joint writing, the words on the page were mine, but the inspiration, heart, and most of the time the plot, all came from my shy muse.
Miscellaneous joys: Horses. She loved horses the way she loved music. They fed her soul and took her to a serene place. She loved all animals. She loved movies, Robert Deniro, Charlize Theron, plays, Saturday Night Live reruns, comedy, live or not, concerts, word games, discussions with interesting people. She loved travel. I think Iceland was her favorite because of the Icelandic horses.
What She Leaves Behind
Broken hearts. She left far too early. Wonderful memories. Inspiration for others. A role model for those who yearn for a better world. Pam gave to others all through her life. She gave to others right to the end, donating her tissues and asking that her body’s farewell be the one that best serves the earth.
Please, dear Pam, rest in true peace
I will always love you,
In Pam’s Memory
The love friends and family have shown to Pam in her lifetime and at the end of her stay on Earth have been the greatest memorial possible. She requested no funeral or services, but the outpouring of sympathy, shared grief, and heartfelt offers of support feel like being swaddled in comfort. It is all we mortals can do in the face of death and it is a blessing, pure and simple. Thank you.
As anyone she helped could tell you, Pam was fearless when it came to asking for things others needed. It never crossed her mind to ask for herself. If you would like to give a boost to the causes she fought for, here are a couple that were close to her heart.
The Gathering Place in Denver. The Gathering Place offers homeless women, transgender individuals, and children a welcoming place of support to come to in the daytime.
Black Lives Matter.
Perhaps come Spring we can gather to celebrate Pam’s life with music and story. Until then, please celebrate each day of life with music and story. Pam would want you to.