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13 October 2011

Eulogy for my Sister

As I mentioned in a previous post, my sister passed away recently. I set up a memorial fund for her kids (please visit the link and get the info). I also delivered a eulogy for her and I wanted to share it.  The two youngest children do not know that this was a death by suicide, I had to actually alter what I had written to take out one of the central themes (i.e. not to lay blame) so that it wouldn't be disturbing to them.  Here is the full text of the eulogy as I wrote it.
As I look to each of you, I see my own sorrow in your eyes. Behind the tears that fall for my sister, Susan, I see great love and admiration. I know that Susan would be humbled to realize that you’ve taken time from your busy schedule to join in celebration of her life and on behalf of our family; thank you for the support that you’ve offered at this difficult time.

If anyone asked Susan what her finest legacy to the world is, she wouldn’t have hesitated to say, “my family”. She was the proud mother of Cole, Sommer, Noelle, and Grace, and I hope that each can remember that while they have lost a link to the past with Susan’s death; they will always be her hope for the future. Albert Einstein once said, “Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation.” I’m comforted by the fact that Susan will be revered, loved and remembered for decades yet to come.

My sister was an intelligent, funny, strong willed, determined and vivacious young woman. She was a skilled labor and delivery nurse and loved her job. She enjoyed running and biking and was, by her own admission, an open book. She loved to laugh (often) and was spontaneous and fierce. While she seemed strong as steel, the reality is that she was as fragile as crystal and it is this fragility that brings us here today.

It seemed that Susan had it all. She was at the top of her professional years and had many more years to live and many more lives to influence. Yet she faced internal demons none of us even knew of. Many of us feel a selfish guilt right now. We are not just wondering “why” but we are wondering “what”….What could we have done? In the end, as long as we were good and faithful friends to Susan, we did all that we could do. One of the glories of being human is that we get to make choices, and while I don’t agree with my sister’s choice to end her life; it is one she made, and in the end, my wish is that she has found the peace she was looking for.

I don’t think of my sister in the past tense because she is always going to be a part of my memories. I will always remember my younger sister as an inspiration and gift in my life and I am going to miss her more than words can say.

I don’t harbor anger or resentment towards Susan for her final act. She was ill and she did not get the help she needed. Maybe her self reliance and determination prevented her from admitting this illness to herself, thus disallowing necessary help.

Death is the final equalizer for all of us. For most, death comes naturally after a life of many decades. To some life is cut short through no specific plan of an individual through disease or accident. Sadly, others suffer from a misunderstood disease of mental illness and they lose perspective on life and irrationally end it for themselves.

There is so much we don’t know. We don’t know what led her to think that she had no other choice and we wonder at the despair that at last got out of hand and drove her towards her decision.

But…we are not here to hand out blame. Adlai Stevensen once said, “It is not the years in a life that counts; it is the life in the years.” I will be the first to tell you that Susan packed a lot of life in her years and it is that very life that we celebrate today.

An example of her determination, iron will, and the life she led. During the lobster festival in Maine, they have a lobster crate race. Susan tackled that race with her usual gusto. She had clearly won the race, but she kept going. Even after she set the record for that race, she kept going. Not satisfied with just breaking the record, she wanted to make that record her own. She kept going to the point of exhaustion and made that race her own personal property! That record stood for well over a decade. That is the type of person that I will always carry with me.

Moving into the future without Susan by our side will be odd. However, as long as one is remembered they are not truly dead, and if we carry memories of Susan in our heart, she will be with us always.

In her memory, I would like to read a poem written by Edwin Harkin of the UK, in 1981. I think Susan would have liked this:

You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her and only that she’s gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back
or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Rest well, Susan. I miss you terribly.

2 comments:

Jen Struk said...

Im glad,u were there to read this at her service. U forgot to say she also ran and won, the Lobster Fest 10k before she ran the crate race! Tough cookie she was!

Larian LeQuella said...

Jen, I figured if I mentioned that too, people would think I was making it up!