I had lunch with my friend Ruth today, then went to an art supply store where I found some stuff for the Compassion kids. I was all excited about sending a book of cowboy stickers to Fred in the Philippines and some patterned paper for origami for the two older girls in Uganda and Indonesia.
I came back home again and checked in with Facebook and was shocked to see the message I saw. It came from my friend Susan and already had a whole bunch of replies:
I just got word that Merrell died this week. It seems she had lap band surgery last week and there was some sort of complication. They don't yet know how/why she died and the arrangements have not yet been made.
When I get more news I will let you know. Facebook is limited the # of people I can send a message to so I know I'm missing some here but will send another note to those not on this list.
I'm just so sad.
After I read the first sentence, I was ready for some funny explanation. It never entered my head that Merrell could really be dead. Not Merrell. Merrell, short in stature, was always larger than life, filled with a joie de vivre that I don't ever remember seeing in anyone before.
with son Macc
When I think of Merrell, I think of her with that bushy red hair flying, drinking a margarita or smoking a cigar she'd smuggled back from one of her frequent trips to Cuba.
I didn't know her well, so my memories of her come in snapshots, incidents separated by months or years.
I met her on CompuServe and met her face to face when we all took a trip to Reno. It seems fitting that I should have met Lemrel (she was dyslexic and her typos were famous so when she mistyped her own name as lemrel, it stuck as a name we all called her) in Reno, since she was an inveterate gambler. Her father worked in the movie industry and as a young girl, she regularly drove George Raft to the horseraces and she did love her horses. Walt and I sat with her in the sports bar in Las Vegas the weekend of her 50th birthday, while all the others were gambling and we watched her win and lose hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, while she played the horses.
I have been told that in one trip to the racetrack she won enough money to pay cash for her house in the hills of Los Angeles -- houses were cheaper then, but still...
I remember being stuffed into her little convertible sports car with two other CompuServe people and racing around the streets of LA to the cemetery where Marilyn Monroe was buried.
She was a "simple little school marm," who taught--by choice--in a ghetto school and had won many teaching awards, including Teacher of the Year. She was also an office holder in the state-wide teacher organization. She published a lot about teaching methods, and other things. She was invited by teaching organizations of other countries to come and visit them, and traveled around the world. I saw her yearly when she came to town for the state-wide meeting and we would spend a couple of days together, while I acted as her chauffeur. She had a huge heart and obviously was dedicated to her profession and to the kids she taught.She was also the most libidenous person I'd ever met. On a first name basis with the employees of the local sex toy stores, self-identified as lesbian, but had her most "interesting" experiences with a man whom she loved deeply. Whenever you had lunch with Lemrel, you heard about such bizarre experiences, and which hotels specialized in special rooms for couples who wanted to "play." The last time I saw her, she was telling me about her affair with a Dominatrix.
It was a joke among her friends that she had more batteries in her freezer than food.
She took me to a book store one day, to buy me a copy of "Crazy in Alabama," which she said was the funniest book she'd ever read.
While we were there, she found a book of photos of people famous in the history of rock and roll. She thumbed through the book, pointing to photos of both men and women. "I slept with her..." "I slept with him..." "She was so hot..." etc. Some of the biggest names around. She must have been with at least half of the people in the book
The thing is this wasn't name dropping for her. She was very casual about it. It was her life and she thought nothing of it. Pleasure was the name of her game. And odd though it may sound, she made the most bizarre things sound as innocent and commonplace as going to the supermarket. It's only in retrospect that you think "my god--did she really do that??"
The world is definitely the worse for losing Lemrel. I heard a recording of "Hallalujah" on TV while I was writing this and found that I burst into tears. Merrell wasn't a good friend but she was a huge presence in my circle and it just seems inconceivable that she is gone.
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah