The celebration of Gail Marie Matthews’ life filled the funeral home chapel to overflowing with people who came to remember and honor the memory of an awesome woman I wish I’d know personally. The poetry of the obituary drew me to this service:
Gail was born in Lynn, MA and moved to NM when she was 22 years old and fell in love with the sky. That is the start and the finish, but how to describe such a passionate life? She inspired, frustrated, loved, irritated, pushed, mentored, and deepened the lives of everyone in her orbit. Gail could make you laugh until it hurt, make you believe you were capable of scaling mountains. She was completely and unapologetically unique. She was beautifully human with all of the flaws and magnificent glory that entails.
We who are left behind found that our first day without her was less bright. Our evening lacked music, and yet, we know she is dancing, she is full on no holds barred, dancing among the stars that so often tickled her soul. She will ride the first comet she can catch, and she will howl at the moon. We are her family, and we love her. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to team Hayley Estrada at www.jdrf.com, or the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, www.aafa.org.
She worked for 32 of those 33 years in New Mexico at the GE plant, becoming a leader there with a staff of 30. She retired from the company in September when the plant closed, and was busy setting her life in a new direction the month after retirement. Her brothers and sister, and her extended GE family, came to send her on a different journey.
The service started with two priests reciting prayers, sprinkling holy water on Gail’s cremated remains, speaking words of comfort to the mourners, and offering the priestly blessing. “Dying is the scariest part of life’s journey,” said one priest. “When we’re with God, we’re free of pain and worry. The love and acceptance we know here are but a foretaste of what is to come.”
This was a Gail celebration all around. Two women named Gail got up to speak, her two brothers eulogized her beautifully, and there were many others who stood up and provided stories of a life lived deeply and fully.
One speaker said that the Old English translation of the name Gail means lively. Indeed, she described herself with the words energy, vitality, generosity, love, and joy. Others described her as a woman of deep commitment, compassion, goodness, strength, courage, perseverance, and optimism. She was an athlete who excelled in fast pitch softball, winning tournaments up and down the East Coast, and she was a Red Sox fan to the core.
Three women sang A cappella versions of “Amazing Grace” and the Beatles “In My Life.” At the end, everyone was invited back to Gail’s house to continue the celebration. “Come to share fun, great Gail stories,” said her sister. “We’re going to have the biggest friggin’ party, because that’s what she wanted. Please come and party with us.”
From one Gail to another, Gail Marie Matthews, your lively spirit lives on in the hearts of those who knew you – both old friends and new.