Memorial Service Speech - Eileen
Hello, my name is Eileen Byrne Swartout. I first came to know Ann when we lived on the same floor during our freshman year here at Carleton College. My first day on campus I was immediately drawn to Ann’s warmth and self-confidence. I remember sitting in her room chatting with her and watching her settle in. Somehow seeing her organize all her shoes and set up her stereo and TV eased my anxieties about starting college. With each passing day, I came to grasp what a complex, dynamic, intelligent, exuberant and loving woman she was.
I therefore have found it very difficult to decide what I would like to say about Ann. How in a few minutes could I convey all that Ann meant to me, all that we had shared over the past 12 years? But talking about her keeps her alive in my mind and heart. So today I’d like to share with you a few of the reasons that I loved Ann.
Ann loved games and was very competitive, a fact I learned early in our friendship. “Eileen, do you want to play pool?” she said to me during our first week of college. I agreed, but confessed I was really not very good. “That’s okay, neither am I,” she said. When we arrived at the Sayles Hill she told me I could shoot first. Though I struggled to connect the cue ball to any other ball on the table, she was encouraging and supportive. Then when it was her turn she cleared the entire table with ease. That was Ann, friendly but deadly. From that point forward I was careful to ensure that I was on Ann’s team for any sport or game we played.
Ann worked hard and played hard, often at the same time. Ann majored in both Political Science and Economics at Carleton - I think most people would agree that being a double major was a formidable pursuit. While I, and my fellow seniors, were feeling overwhelmed with our one senior comprehensive exercise (or “comps” for short), Ann found time to plan and take a ski trip just prior to her Economics exam.
After college, she took a job as a fledgling bond-trader for Dain Rauscher. At the same time, she took a job as a waitress at a bar in Minneapolis, as she said “to make a little extra spending money”. That was true… but Ann also loved her watering holes, Bullwinkles especially. It was at Bullwinkles one evening that Ann and Dave Hoppe introduced my husband Jim and me to the concept of “big beers.” When Ann suggested that we order a big beer, being thirsty it had sounded good to us. After all, how big could it be?!? The waitress returned with four pitchers of beer! When the waitress offered to bring us glasses, Hoppe vehemently refused “No”, he said, “these are big beers!” So each of us sat there drinking our very own big beer.
Whether going out for a drink or planning a vacation with friends, Ann always succeeded in having fun. As the quote she selected for her senior yearbook reads, “life’s purpose is not to find a fun party… it is to make one.” And Ann fully embodied that sentiment. Ann possessed an unquenchable thirst for adventure. England, China, Thailand, Scandinavia, Ireland, Mexico, and Peru - I am sure that I am forgetting a country or two, not to mention all of the traveling she did within the U.S
But it was her recent trip to Peru, I think, that best showed Ann’s inner strength, self-confidence, and love for adventure. Last fall Ann spent five weeks traveling alone through Peru. Her trip included a trek to Machu Pichu, helicopter viewing of the Nasca lines, a boat tour of the Ballistas Islands, exploring rain forests, many long bus rides, and many compelling interactions with Peruvians. She emailed me throughout her travels. Her letters conveyed a sense of wonder, contentment and pure joy. She was energized by the entire experience. At first, she was slightly fearful of traveling alone, but as she became more comfortable with her Spanish and her surroundings she wrote saying, “ever since I left Lima there are tourists everywhere. We all go the same places, the same ways and do the same tours… it is hilarious…it certainly takes much of the adventurous and pioneering feeling away from it all…. Now unlike in Lima, when all I wanted to see were people I felt comfortable with, I run from the tourists.” That was Ann she always took her own path.
Ann was spontaneous. Perhaps the best example of her spontaneity and perhaps one of the most dramatic was her move to New York last winter. We had gone to see a movie over the weekend and Ann had told me she was beginning to feel restless and thought it was time for her to go back to work after having taken the summer and fall off. She told me she had some great contacts in New York and felt that in New York she would have the best opportunities to further her career. Then Monday she called me mid-morning and said “Leenie I just accepted a job.” Then with our recent conversation fresh in my mind, and a little trepidation I asked, “where is the job?” She said “New York.” Then I asked, “So when do you start?” thinking we would have at least one more opportunity to get together before she moved. So when Ann responded, “I start tomorrow, I’ll be flying out first thing in the morning.” I was both surprised and saddened that it was happening so quickly! But I could hear the tingle of anticipation in her voice… she was beginning a new adventure!
Ann’s strength, her drive and determination and her exuberance for life were all qualities that I admired in her. But above all of these qualities, what I admired most and will miss most about Ann was how she made me feel as a friend. My favorite outings with her were meeting for a cup of coffee or going for a walk. We would talk about our day-to-day lives, our relationships, our families and our jobs and it seemed just about everything else. She was always, so open and honest with her thoughts and feelings. She was a wonderful confidant and always had the right words to make me laugh, comfort me, or provide the motivation to get me moving. She was intensely loyal and always made me feel that my thoughts and feelings were important. The way Ann called me “Leenie” and the happiness in her voice when we would talk never failed to make me feel special no matter where she was or how long a time passed between one conversation and the next. I will miss the tangible aspects of our friendship but I believe that Ann is near in spirit.
I would like to close with a Hopi prayer that I came across just after I learned of Ann’s death because it voices my belief that the vitality, joy and love that Ann exuded have not been lost…
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain.
I am the gentle Autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there I did not die.