Denessa Smith was my friend, and I loved her for a number of reasons - perhaps the most important of which was the fact that she was a real human being with human flaws and failings just like the rest of us. But instead of letting those flaws get her down, she accepted them for what they were: an integral part of who she was. Moreover, she came to undertand that no one else was perfect, either. And it didn't matter whether she understood why people did some of the crazy things they did or not. She simply accepted them for who they were - and loved them anyway.
Human flaws notwithstanding, Denessa had many virtues that set her aside from a good portion of the human race. She understood the power of kindness, the strength of human compassion, and the necessity of protecting those who could not effectively defend themselves. She understood the rewards of personal integrity, the joys of fighting the good fight, and the benefits reaped by thinking outside the box. She understood that laughter healed a world of heartache, and that a good joke was worth its weight in gold. She did not, however, understand the meaning of the word, "impossible." But if she had, she wouldn't have been Denessa. Not the Denessa that I knew and loved, anyway.
She was a strong woman. An independent woman. A woman who often appeared to be ten feet tall and bullet-proof. And much like a modern day Joan of Arc, she not only marched straight into areas that the rest of us wouldn't have dreamt of going, but did so without so much as a single trace of fear lining her face.
But she wasn't a saint. She was a woman. And those who knew her well could see that vulnerable little girl who lived deep within her core - that little girl who was just as scared as the rest of us. That didn't stop Denessa, though. She was fueled by the courage of her convictions, by human compassion, by a sense of justice and fairness, and the need for tolerance. But most of all, she was fueled by the knowledge that one person really could make a difference. And she did - no matter how hard the fight - just because it was the right thing to do.
I'll never forget the day I met Denessa. It was my first year at ConVocation, and she came over to the booth to introduce herself. The connection was both immediate and permanent, and sealed within an instant. That connection took us to lots of places over the years - even to yard sales!
While some of the moments we shared were quite solemn in nature, most of my fondest memories were laced with giggles, laughter, and joy. I remember how excited she was in New Orleans when she confided that she was going to ask Annette to marry her. I remember how proud she was the day we broke ground on the property that would eventually support the foundation center - the day that would've been Tempest's 18th birthday - and how awed she was when Kim Perkins-Murillo unveiled the portrait of Tempest at the First Annual Black & Red Ball. I remember how nervous she was before her first formal speech on tolerance at one of the schools. And I remember her kindness - the kindness that flowed from the loving, giving spirit that was all Denessa. Yes...I remember that quite well. For I was the beneficiary of that kindness on more than one occasion.
She organized the TSF kick-off luncheon to coincide with the release of my Everyday Sun Magic book, and actually took time from her busy schedule to book appearances for me when I was in the area, just so I wouldn't have to. She even took time off work to chauffeur me around, so I wouldn't have to worry about how I was getting from one place to the next.
There's more. I was fortunate enough to spend a week with Denessa and Annette a few years back, and was absolutely overwhelmed at the lengths to which they'd gone to assure my comfort. To say that these acts of kindness were huge to me is an understatement. I couldn't believe that anyone would go to so much trouble for me, and I didn't waste any time saying so. But Denessa - being Denessa - just shrugged and grinned and said it was small stuff. And it's just that sort of gracious kindness and generosity, coupled with a real sense of humility, that endeared her to me even more.
I'm going to miss Denessa - more than I have words to say. Still, I cherish the part of her life that she shared with me, for mine is so much richer because of it. I am honored to have known her. I am honored to have been her friend. And I am honored to hold my fondest memories of her close to my heart where they will live on.
So...I will not say good-bye to Denessa. Instead, I will simply say au revoir - for we will meet again; if not in this lifetime, then in the next.
Hugs to you all!