My friend Ann Marie surely made the most of her all-too-brief journey

Several hundred words to tell a lifetime. When thousands cannot explain just the dance of her eyes when she smiled. And millions would not do justice to the natural beauty that radiated from her every pore.

Ann Marie Ford was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor ten months ago at age 43. Her husband Bobby, daughter Ashley, and son Brendan then waited for the surprise ending, for someone to figure out a way to make her better. They waited for someone to come out from behind the curtain and tell them it was all a big mistake.

Last Monday the brakes slammed on hope. That screeching sound broke hundreds, if not thousands, of hearts. The jolt of the realization that her laugh would never be heard again bowed so many heads so very low.

If the sum of one's life is measured by love, Ann Marie Ford's would be counted as if she lived for eternity. Last Thursday and Friday, it seemed that our entire city came to pay final respects for her abbreviated life. It was a remarkable tribute for a woman who held no public position of celebrated distinction, of celebrity, or of fame. She was just a Dorchester girl who had a life-long dedication and devotion to the concept of "do unto others." And who had the unabashed capacity to make you smile.

"It was one of the most well attended visitations in recent memory." said Jeb Dolan of the Dolan Funeral Home.

When I drove away and looked back at the line wrapping outside the funeral parlor, I couldn't help but smile at the thought that Ann Marie would have been delighted so many friends had visited. But in the next breath she would have been angry they were uncomfortable and had to wait in the line for such a long time.

That was the Ann Marie I knew. The one who always thought of others. If you didn't know her, then I wish for you to meet someone in your lifetime who has just half the stuff she was made of. Just half, and you will be in good stead. You will have the only friend you will ever need.

With friends: That was how I came to know her. She traveled in a pack with her girlfriends before the notion was popular. From kindergarten on, I watched them grow into women and I marveled at their constant companionship. And I cried for them when I saw "their collective brow of woe."

Love - real love - is a strong condition, whatever that means between two people - mother, daughter, sister, friend, husband. And sometimes, when it's very special, it lives on after someone has passed away. And if you're very lucky, love can be so strong that it can carry you through some crippling moments.

Ann Marie knew her time on this earth was limited, so she left a friend very specific instructions: The day after she died the friend was to call her husband Bobby to tell him how much she loved him. He got that phone call.

So even though she was not here on earth, there was still stuff to measure and count. Even though her heart was not beating, she was still loving.

Even though.