Consider yourself warned that this is a sad post and that you might need a kleenex. If you're a new readers here that's what the PKW means...possible kleenex warning. I've heard from quite a few readers that they came to my blog expecting to find funny...and instead found sad...tears were the result in inappropriate places...thus the warning.
My sister died after 31 years of illness and this is the eulogy I wrote for her. I delivered it twice. Once in a church here in Arizona and again when her ashes were interred in Ohio. We stood atop a hill surrounded by friends and green trees and a lovely sky sprinkled with clouds and I said these words for a second time.
Before I hit the "PUBLISH POST" button I thought about disabling comments here because, really, what is there to say other then "I'm sorry"? And I know you all are...you are all lovely, kind-hearted, compassionate people.
But I will leave the comment button on because the interaction with you during all my silly posts and sad posts have given me so much joy.
And I like the feeling that we are all connected...by nothing more then words on a screen.
You are all my community and so I want to thank you for sharing this moment with me on this sad day.
Right after Liz died I was having a conversation with our Mom. Mom talked a lot about remembrances but then she said something that really stuck with me. She said that ever since Liz was a small child she was always so accepting and since that day I have thought about that comment a lot.
It seems that acceptance is not something very many people have whether it is the acceptance of rules and authority or the acceptance we have of the twists and turns our lives take. We cry. We get angry. We feel sorry for ourselves. And truly that is something that Liz never did.
I wonder if God granted Liz a special gift at birth knowing how her life would play out. If so, there is indeed a compassionate God.
As a small child Liz listened to what our parents said as gospel. There was no gray area. No cookies meant no cookies. The rest of us girls were pretty good about trying to find a loophole so that we could get what WE wanted but to Liz - no was no. Yes was yes. Don't was don't. Acceptance of what Dad and Mom said became part of who Liz was.
As she got a bit older and started school and Catholic Studies, Liz added her teachers and strong religious beliefs to what defined her life. Acceptance of this knowledge and religion also became part of who Liz was.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Liz was mindless and a robot. She could be horribly stubborn and she wasn't always an angel. Sssshhhh... don't tell my Mom but she did cheat sometimes at games and was known to make mean faces on occasion. But I think what I'm trying to say is that Liz accepted that there were forces more powerful then her. There was a sweetness in her and a lack of rebelliousness along with a sense of joy and creativity that spilled over into all aspects of her young life.
Liz loved making things, drawing, playing outside, running … all the active things that are the definition of a creative, happy childhood. Nothing seemed unusual at all until she got into high school and then we all noticed that she began to walk funny. Kids gave her a rough time and made fun of her but it didn't seem to effect her. She had her piano and her sisters and her parents and her art and her religious reading and her schoolwork… if walking was a bit difficult it was just something to accept…. So she did.
As her walking continued to worsen our parents dragged her to many doctors in many hospitals for many tests. If the tests were painful and if she had to use a wheelchair more frequently it was just something to accept…. So she did.
High School graduation came and went and she got a car and started to college but her disease continued to progress and she became unable to drive and continue school, so the car was sold and she began to stay home more and more. If she resented the loss of these freedoms she never showed it. It was just another thing to accept. So she did.
Her time at home was still filled with piano and religious readings and unbelievable needlework. So many creative hobbies interested her…. Sewing dolls, cutting intricate snowflakes, making holiday decorations. She also began traveling with our parents and loved to see new things. She seemed happy with her life.
As the disease began spreading into her hands, though, one by one the hobbies began to be put away. If she was angered by the loss of playing the piano or sewing or doing her needlework she never showed it. It was just more loss to accept. So she did.
And when I say she accepted these losses I mean she accepted them with grace and courage. True and genuine acceptance with no remorse, regrets or anger.
More losses. The ability to do the most basic of self-care became impossible. Our parents continued to care for her at home as she became bedridden and she continued to be positive with a big, radiant smile often on her face. Our parents were finally faced with the difficult decision of placing her into a nursing home because her care had become too great for them to administer. If Liz was angered or fearful about this major change she never showed it. It was just another change in her life to accept. So she did.
In her final years simple things could merit a big,radiant smile in return. A snack that wasn't institution food. A pair of socks the right color of green. A reading of one of her favorite poems. Looking at magazines. But life had not yet finished creating changes for Liz and as her disease robbed her of more and more of her faculties these joys became harder to provide. But she accepted all this yet again.
During Liz's last few days one of the hospice nurses said that she believes that at the end everyone takes a final inventory of their life…. She called it book-keeping. She said she believes that we take out our memories and look at them and find acceptance for our lives and that we are then free to go.
Throughout the final days the family kept careful watch over Liz in her sedated sleep. I was there often and while I was I watched her face carefully. I often saw her smile and appear to be talking but I only saw her cry once. Once. Out of all the loss and pain and suffering that she had experienced in her too short life her final "book-keeping" was almost total joy.
I believe that Liz is in Heaven. I truly believe this. I think she is running and riding her bike and doing celestial needlework and planting pansies and eating spumoni ice cream and drinking a big glass of icy coke. I can just see her happy smile in my mind. In her later years as communication left her she was often unable to finish this simple sentence…. "I want…. I want….I want…." She would say over and over again in frustration… Liz doesn't "want" anything anymore. She has everything she has ever wanted or needed.
And I accept that.