(Photo courtesy of K-Love, Scott and Kelli)
I could not have known that, on July 29th of this year, I would be paying the price of love, and entering my own passage through grief. My youngest sister, Becky, died suddenly, after battling with mystifying illnesses—and mis-diagnosed symptoms—off and on, for years.
Her passing was peaceful, amidst a gathering of family around her hospital bed. The day before, following an emergency exploratory surgery, she had lapsed into near unconsciousness, in part due to the lingering effects of anesthesia. Yet, when I had called from 800-plus miles away, and prayed into her ear, through the phone held close for her, she had spoken the words, “in Jesus’ Name. Amen,” with me.
And when our other remaining sister, Marjorie, had later that same day said, “God bless you, Becky,” she had replied, as if talking in her sleep, “He already has!” A few hours later, she breathed her last breath here on earth.
Our large family of five remaining siblings (one sister, 11months younger than me, had already died from a sudden stroke, over ten years ago), her daughter (now bereft of parents and siblings), five grandchildren, and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews, all gathered together from seven states, to bid her a final farewell.
Nearly six week earlier, over 40 of us, including my sister, Becky, had come together for a rare family reunion, at a dream chalet in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. All of us had a really great time. Even some old family spats had been patched up and forgiven on that wonderful trip.
My sister, Becky, had such a wonderful time that she was eager to enjoy more frequent reunions in the future. She had told us, “I’ll get this family together, one way or another!” And, she did.
Nearly 100 family members gathered together, amidst tears and laughter. Tears, because we all miss her terribly, but also laughter, because, as Christians, we know where she is going, and have the comfort of knowing that we will see her again, one day.
So, we all celebrated Becky’s life. She was the “one” you have in just about every family, who marches to the beat of a different drummer. Married seven times (I think), she always found a way to live happy, in spite of numerous tragedies.
You see, at the age of five, she was the victim of a hit-and-run driver. Thank God, she was only banged up, with no broken bones. Then, at six, she was the victim of child abuse, as recounted in another post in this blog. Fast-forwarding through her life, she was forced to move to different parts of the country, sent (with one of our brothers), to live with an older sibling for awhile, where she attended (and skipped out on) a gang-infested high school, raped by someone’s boyfriend and a (now ex) brother-in-law, she married early. Her first child, a son, died at six of shaken baby syndrome, at the hands of a babysitter. Her second son, was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, a day before he was scheduled to fly home.
In spite of all that tragedy, and loss, my youngest sister never lost her childlike sense of wonder and awe. Live butterflies, artificial frog what-nots, and delicate white roses, were some of her favorite things. She also loved writing poetry, crocheting, and family, especially her one remaining child, a grown daughter and five grand kids.
Although Becky made shrines and big, sorrow-filled productions out of celebrating the birthdays of her deceased sons, she was also always able to bounce back with her ready sense of humor. And, to my knowledge, she was never intentionally mean to anyone. On the contrary: she was one of the kindest people I have ever known, even spending nearly the last dime of her Gold Star mother’s survivor benefit checks on gifts for others.
She was able to find comfort in her lifelong passages through grief, by focusing on loving the life and the people around her. You didn’t have to earn it; she just gave it—like God does with us. She truly followed God with the way she freely gave her love throughout her life.
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
John 15:12 KJV
A couple of weeks after her death, I wrote the following to try to describe how I felt about losing my sister, Becky. I’m pretty sure she would understand.
On grief and comfort…
As we try to move forward, ever so gradually, grief begins to fall behind. At first, it hurts too much to let grief go, so we pull her along with us. She refreshes us with tears of remembrance of our sleeping loved one, and later, exhausted, we exhale slowly, wiping our eyes. But, one day, quite unexpectedly, we feel a subtle lightness, like the sun through lingering raindrops, after a summer storm. Blinded by its brightness, we close our eyes and smile, wiping away a lingering teardrop, and step out into the newly-washed day.
Regina Plimpton Quinn copyright 2015