… well, that’s it, really. The end of the story.
The beginning takes a little more explanation.
To live is to know loss; it’s inevitable. Every person has lost or will lose, either expected or not, someone of importance to them; someone they love.
While returning to my ancestral home for my sister’s funeral, I learned that my uncle had also died. His death was somewhat expected, as a week previously I had learned he was entering hospice care after kidney failure.
It was this I was expecting to learn of when my brother called me late one night, only to instead be told of my sister’s unexpected death.
I am now the oldest surviving member of my immediate family, and second oldest in my father’s bloodline. The past five years saw the deaths of my mother, my father, my dog, my paternal grandmother, my brother-in-law, and now my uncle and my sister. I very nearly became part of that list myself. (Both grandfathers and my maternal grandmother died years ago.)
That’s a lot of punches with which to roll.
I am one of many who deal with personal tragedy through attempted humor- the deeper the pain, the greater the irreverence. When asking for time off from work to fly to the homestead, I told my boss that the silver lining is that there’s not many more family members left to go, so I shouldn’t need any more time off for quite awhile.
(My irreverence is frequently matched by my tastelessness, I suppose.)
As the now eldest of my family, I wanted to speak at the memorial service for my sister, something I had managed to avoid with all previous funerals. (I’ve lost track of the number, but I’m pretty sure we can turn in our punchcard and get the next one free!)
I’ve tried to avoid this because I’m not good at writing seriously.
(Yes, I also realize many don’t think I’m good at writing humorously, either. Or writing at all. Go complain in your own column.)
During my travels from halfway across the country, I’d occasionally toss ideas into the back of my head to simmer and hopefully turn into something worth sharing. This continued into the next day as well, leaving me with little time to cobble something together before the service the following day. Never has the word “deadline” held so much meaning to me.
(This doesn’t help dismiss my claims of lacking taste at all.)
After learning of my uncle’s death, I wanted to write something that could be meaningful not only to the friends attending my sister’s memorial but the rest of my family that would be dealing with two funerals in one weekend.
Once I began writing about my sister, I tried to work in my uncle as well, thinking of the various memories I could share, like the picture of my uncle that I remember best from when he helped my father build a swingset (for my sister, coincidentally) and was captured hanging from one hand on the swingset acting like a monkey. Or of the time my sister tried to impress her boyfriend by baking him biscuits, but ended up with pastry hockey pucks when she used the wrong flour.
Frustrated with the direction and unsatisfied with the results, especially since I was trying to be thoughtful and serious, I suddenly realized I didn’t want to write about my sister and/or my uncle at all. They weren’t the ones who needed to be reminded of my memories and given whatever comfort I could muster.
Funerals are for the living, it is said, and I needed to write for the people who would be there for hers. I already knew I’d never forget her, and I hoped that I could write something that would help everyone else remember her as well, and to make them feel a little better, and in the process, maybe make myself feel a little better as well.
And so I did.
Everyone knows loss. Even though this was written for my own, I hope that what follows can also help anyone else dealing with theirs, as well.
I’m not going to talk about my sister. Instead, I’d like to talk about each one of you.
Each one of you has your own reason for being here, and each one of you knew her in your own way. Each of you feel your own individual loss.
But instead of loss, I want each of you to think about what you’ve gained from knowing her.
Think of how you met her, of the conversations you had, the things you did together, how she looked when she was happy, and how it felt to be happy around her.
Because what is important now is not that she’s gone, but that she was here, and the impact she made, in some way, on each one of you.
As long as you remember her, and what she did for you, and how your life is different because of her, and how you’ve benefited from the time you knew her, and most importantly, what she meant to you – hold on to this, each one of you, and she’ll never truly be gone.
It’s one thing to not be forgotten; it’s another thing to be remembered.