Yesterday was my sister’s memorial service. She was 31. I’m not going to go into great detail, I already wrote about my reaction the day she died and when her dog, my first niece, passed. Here it is, my sister’s life, summed up in written form the best way I know how.
How do you sum up a life? Even a short life like the one we come to celebrate today seems given short shrift when limited to the words spoken in a eulogy. Still, encapsulating my sister in anything other than full Dolby sound, a movie screen, and full color seems to do her an injustice.
Jenny was a walking paradox. She was graceful, refined, and beautiful while also being cruel, manipulative, and violent. She was funny, oh so funny, while also being acerbic, clueless, and sometimes stunningly vicious. She was a whirling dervish of ever-changing and often ephemeral fancies and desires. And she had demons.
As most of you know, Jenny came to us here in Pennsylvania because she was being chased by the demons of a childhood no one should have to endure. She came broken, wild… more a feral creature than a 6-year-old girl. And while she grew and seemed for a time to be acclimating, those demons never left her. They grew into the fiber of her being, moving like a cancer through her personality, and eventually they killed her.
Her loss is tragic, but her loss is also hopeful. None of us want to die in such a way. But all of us want a chance to be reborn into the light and into peace.
Jenny firmly didn’t believe in God, particularly any western version of God. She flirted with Buddhism but the relationship, like so many in her life, didn’t last. But, many of us here do believe in God. I, for one, stand here confidently before you to tell you that I believe that Jenny has left us for a better place.
Between the years of various painful physical ailments, the mental illnesses that would not let up, the unimaginable childhood trauma, and the addiction that finally killed her, I am absolutely certain that my sister is in a better place now than she has been in many, many years.
Let us celebrate her passing as a relief from suffering, an end to those deeply rooted demons, and the passing of peace to each of us as we contemplate our own relationship with this life and the next.
In my mind’s eye I see my sister. She’s younger, maybe 12, and she’s whole. She’s healthy and beautiful and she’s holding hands with Nancy and walking off into the horizon toward a brilliant sun.
May we all find such peace, in this life and the next.