My sister

Today would have been my only sister’s 50th birthday. She passed away five years ago. Here is what I prepared – and mostly said – at her funeral:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Some of you may think that it is inherently unfair that I am here today with my brother, my mom, and my dad, a year and a day after we said goodbye to our brother and son, saying goodbye to our sister and daughter. You’re right: it is unfair. A year and a day ago, we didn’t even know Linda was sick. Parents should not have to bury their children, period. But something I’ve learned in the last year and a day is that life is unfair. I hope I’ve learned that lesson well enough to last for a while, but you know that goes.

Linda was seven years older than I was. So we didn’t have the type of relationship like my daughters have, going to football games together, taking classes together. No, I most assuredly was the baby in the family. Sometimes I felt like a plaything, to be dressed up and brought out, and some of you know that my nickname as a girl was “Dolly.” But I relished that role and Linda indulged me in that.

I was in 5th grade when Linda graduated from high school. I well remember the gift that I gave her: a cake. It was a chocolate cake, and now, so many years later, I remember Linda’s reaction later because she was so proud at this gift made by her baby sister. She proudly put it next to the cake made by our Grandma. Many of you had a Grandma cake, too, and you know how beautiful that was. Now, at the time, I thought my cake was beautiful, too, but I have this photograph in my mind of what the cake looked like, and it was pretty lumpy and rather funny looking. But she didn’t care; she put it out there anyway.

Now that wouldn’t surprise any of you who knew Linda. She was just like that. The thing I think most about Linda is that she wanted to make everyone else comfortable. That’s why she was such a good nurse and a good mom. I know it broke her heart when she could no longer work as a nurse because she so loved the children that she took care of. And I know she adored her children, especially her granddaughter, Aurora. Linda told my mom that one of the saddest things about Monte dying was that he would never know his grandchildren. Mark, thank you for giving my sister a grandchild.

And that’s how Linda lived, and how she died, too, always thinking of other people. Now maybe that sounds funny, but let me explain. On Friday, there had been a family meeting with my mom and dad and Linda’s children, at the hospital. On Saturday,there were visitors, but they had all left, and it was just my mom and Linda. My mom called my dad and said that Linda was doing fine. That didn’t mean that we thought she was going to get better. We had had hope for a long time, yes, but when we found out that her diaphragm was no longer working, we didn’t really have much hope left. My mom meant that Linda was sleeping peacefully. Mom looked at the instruments to see Linda’s pulse and blood pressure and whatnot, as nurses do, and just as she did, Linda’s pulse went to zero, and she was gone. So this was a gift to my parents. As I said, my mom was on the phone with my dad, and so he heard the instruments and machines and knew the precise moment that his daughter had died. And my mom – she didn’t have to call her husband to tell him that his Linda Sue, that beautiful baby they had brought home from the hospital 44 years before, was gone. My mom didn’t have to do that. And I think that was a gift to my mom, too. And again, that’s just the way Linda was. My mom has great faith, as did my sister, and she said that she saw Linda’s face as she went into heaven. I know that Linda is in heaven in the arms of her Savior, Jesus Christ.

I was lamenting to my son that I don’t have a single picture of myself as an adult with my sister. He said, “But, Mom, you have your memories. No one can take those.” I said, “But Caleb – I’m going to grow to be an old woman! What if I forget?” He assured me that I wouldn’t forget. I don’t know – I’m pretty forgetful. But then I think of the fact that I remember with picture-perfect clarity a cake that I baked in 1981. So maybe, just maybe, he’s right.

Linda had a real joie de vive, a love of life. Linda was thrifty, she was generous, she was passionate – in her likes and her dislikes, she was loyal – fiercely loyal to her children, and above all else, she loved.

Sometimes, I look at something I wrote and I’ll think, “Wow, that looks just like Linda’s handwriting.” And my mom – just this morning she called me Linda. She was so embarrassed, but Mom, you’ve been calling me “Linda” for 37 years, and I’m hear to tell you, I want you to call me that for 37 more. It’s a good name.

But I want to emulate my sister more than just my handwriting and being called her name by my mother. I want to emulate her thriftiness, her generosity, her passion, her loyalty, and her capacity to love.

I don’t think Linda would begrudge this opportunity to grieve, but I also don’t think she’d want us to stay here too long. She would want us to smile and laugh, to sing and to dance, and to love. She’d want us to love each other.

You’re right. It is unfair. It is unfair that those of us who are here, and those who are here in spirit but couldn’t be here today, are the only ones on this earth who got to know and love Linda Sue. Think of it – of the millions and millions of people on earth today, we’re the only ones! How did that happen? How did I get so lucky to have her as my sister – to be her sister? I don’t know, but I tell the world, I’m sorry, but life is unfair. We’re just going to live with the unfairness of that.

Linda, if you’re allowed to be here in spirit today, I want you to know that I love you, and I miss you, and I will love and miss you every day of my life. We were supposed to grow old together – maybe you didn’t know that. But we were. But I want you to know that when I’m an old lady, I won’t forget. I will remember.

Thank you.

And here’s something I made to play at the wake the night before. I know it’s completely against copyright, and if Celine Dion’s people request, I’ll take it down. But know that we appreciate how this song so perfectly captured our feelings that sad, sad, day.

Boy, do I miss her.

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