A Good Girl

Someone who went to the same middle school I attended in 6th-7th grade passed away recently (I barely knew her and we hadn’t kept in touch). Replying to a wave of condolences, many of which mentioned the deceased’s strong religious beliefs or her smile, a mutual friend said, “Yes, she was a good girl.” (All three of us are/were within a year of each other age-wise, so late 30s.)

“She was a good girl.”

This struck me as the saddest and emptiest summation of a life I’ve ever heard.

What does good even mean in this context? Given what I know of both people, I believe it means, “She was who I expected her to be. She didn’t challenge the status quo in any way that made me uncomfortable. It was easy and convenient to know her.”

No thanks. I do not want to be remembered as a good girl.

[I have no plans to go anywhere for a long, long time; no worries. But whether I’m 44 or 104 when I kick the bucket, there are so many better options if you need to say anything at all about me!]

I do strive to be a good human being, don’t get me wrong. I also don’t really want that attempted goodness to be what people remember first or all they can think of to describe me. “Good” may make a life shine brighter, but it’s not in and of itself a color; it doesn’t tell you who someone is or was. (Does that make sense?)

I want to be remembered as the vibrant, heart-on-sleeve, stubborn spirit I am, the one who laughs easily and often (and is moved to tears by sappy movies I’ve seen a million times), who could find the silver lining in just about anything. I want to be remembered for the fierce and wholehearted way I love, for my messy and constant creativity, for a million things that make me the unique person I am.

Remember my preference for a good strong thunderstorm over a cloudless day.

Remember my adoration for autumn — and my delight over unexpected snow in winter, every time.

Remember my weakness for all things caramel.

Remember my utter inability to let go of any pet I ever fostered.

Remember my poet’s heart and my firm belief that love lives on.

Remember that I couldn’t resist singing along to almost every song on the radio on a road trip.

Say that I was whip smart — and a sarcastic ass when the mood struck. Say that I was a loud, mouthy basketball fan. Say that I was unintentionally hilarious when I was mad, grumbling under my breath.

Be specific. Be honest. Say anything you like — but please, please don’t reduce my life to the horribly bland,

“She was a good girl.”