Death is inevitable. As the saying goes, “Nobody gets out of here alive,” and so that is the case with my sister. Once asked by one of our aunts how she got through her schedule with her young boys, her response was, “I can rest when I’m dead.”
At least she had a sense of humor.
She may now be gone, but we, those who are left behind, forget in our grief that our mourning does not belong to us alone. While it is incredibly personal, whether we wail aloud or cry in silence, grieving is a community event. I first realized this with the passing of our dear grand-uncle last year. The line of mourners at the church extended out into the parking lot and benches and a speaker were set up for those who couldn’t fit inside of the church. Just as our uncle made an impact on his community, my sister made an impact on hers.
Her friends and acquaintances stretched across the globe, from Wisconsin to Western Europe, those folks have left messages that have both lifted spirits and brought tears. If it wasn’t for my sister, my husband and I wouldn’t have met our friends from England, horses and dogs needing homes wouldn’t have found them, and our family wouldn’t contain so many “relatives by choice”. That, right there, is a testament to her ability to bring people together, to have them belong.
Death is something our society has gotten away from, hiding it as it were shameful, and been made uncomfortable to confront. My sister was one who faced the reality of death, whether her own or others, with an apparent strength that I hope we can all aspire to. Death also brings together a community to celebrate the life of someone we all knew and loved. Though, if we were going to be completely candid, were she here, she’d tell us that it’s been over a week now and to get on with living our lives, to go do something.
But, she’d also understand that we all grieve loss in our own way. While some will take more time to come to terms with her passing, others will have every appearance of carrying on quickly. We will all, however, find ourselves at some point, caught by a memory that makes us pause and remember fondly a shared moment.
We were sisters, and like many sisters before us, our relationship was frequently contentious. But, despite our differences, we still had plenty of times of laughter, merciless, good-natured teasing, and conversations that stretched into hours.
So, as the community gathers to mourn the loss of my sister for who she was to them and our futures without her, let us all remember that her memorial is her last gift to those she knew by doing something she did very well: bringing people together.