A Tribute to a Soul Sister
Shannon "Shay" Diane Rivera entered this world 01.06.77 and left it prematurely on 07.12.20. I can't remember a day in our 20's that we weren't together. I can still hear her saying, "Me and Heidi's like peas and carrots' in her best Forest Gump voice. She was an Earth sign and I am an Air; she was the Yin to my Yang. We fought like sisters; we loved like sisters. She carried me through some rough times in my life, providing much needed emotional support. She intuitively always seemed to know just what you needed. Shay would show up with a cigarette, a flower or a cup of tea at just the right time. She was an amazing listener and had a keen sense of observation. My head cannot put into words how broken my heart is; I'm struggling to comprehend my roller coaster of emotions coming up this week .
Kindred and Irye, Shay's oldest two girls, and my daughter Mareena grew up together. We all lived in the same house, in different apartments for many years. Shay and I's friendship built a life long bond between the girls; Mareena literally held each of them when they were only 2 days old and they all remain close to this day 22 years later. Oh man, if we only had videos of the dance parties we used to have! And yes Mareena, you used to dance, hahaha.
Shay loved to play the guitar, she was amazingly artistic and could blow you away on the dance floor with her bad ass funky moves. As with most artistic souls, she battled with depression and addiction most of her life. I do not say this to "air her dirty laundry," but rather to illuminate the darkness that could consume her at times. Unfortunately addiction and depression walk hand in hand so often they are practically married. In her early 30's Shay took medication for depression and it really helped with her emotional balance. In time she began to feel shame surrounding the fact that she needed to take a pill daily in order to feel happiness. She said it felt unnatural and she discontinued use. It breaks my heart that there is such a stigma around taking medications for mental health. I obviously am a huge advocate for herbal remedies, but there is a time and a place for everything. I am not about to tell you that St, John's Wort or any other plant could cure deep depression. These are certainly alternatives for mild cases of depression and may even help some people in more severe instances, but brain chemical imbalances can be brought into equilibrium through therapy and modern medication. How do we stop the shame? How do we as a nation start to view therapy as a great tool for coping with life's trials and tribulations?
Shay was a complex woman with many layers; we have had some deep talks over the years. She loved her four children with all her heart, but couldn't help feeling like she failed them. She was always looking backwards, focused on the things she didn't do "right," or could have done differently. Shay had a very hard time seeing the future and it's possibilities. There were a few times over the years that Shay had rented tiny, shabby cabins because that was all she could afford. She was great at wandering in nature, gathering and collecting things from the ground to create AMAZING decorations; making every place an earthy, cozy home. She had an uncanny ability to show other's the light, but just couldn't seem to find it within herself. She was the friend that not only pulled over when you saw a magical tree off in the distance, she would walk the snow covered field with you just so you could capture the photo you wanted on camera.
When we were 26 years old we spontaneously convinced our baby daddies to keep the children so we could embark on a two week cross country road trip. We were both feeling down and out and I thought this would be a great way to get a fresh perspective on life. We drove her jeep from Pennsylvania to Oregon to visit with friends. Along the way we acquired a CB radio that provided hours of entertainment and road side assistance when needed. We were flying down the highway blaring music, dancing and laughing when the CB came one and we heard a trucker say, "man, do you see how much fun those girls are having?" Another joined in saying, "yeah they were dancing around when they passed me." Then a third said, "I saw them too, and they have an antenna. Girls, do you have your ears on?" This is radio code for are you listening. We were laughing so hard we had tears running down our cheeks. We picked up the radio and started a hilarious conversation that would last for almost two states. The truckers wanted to make time, so we led the convoy electing to be the pace car, i.e. the first one pulled over in the event of coming up on a "smokey." I will never forget our "Themla & Louise" expedition (without the murder part).
Tomorrow we gather to celebrate the magicalness that was Shay. Though it is going to be filled with sadness, I am looking forward to hearing all of the crazy stories people have to share about their time with her. Though she was unable to see the joy and laughter she brought to others, we will certainly do our best to show her children how many people she positively affected. I know this blog post does not have much to do with herbalism, but reliving these moments was medicine for me, so thanks for reading. If you are battling with depression, please reach out for help. I can promise you that the world is NOT a better place without you in it.