A Memorial Day Remembrance

My older sister, Carole, was born on  Memorial Day in 1947.  This was when Memorial Day was a fixed date of May 30th, rather than the floating Monday holiday we currently celebrate.

We always went to the local Memorial Day Parade, and in our family, it was followed by a neighborhood softball game in the field and then a family birthday party with a cookout.  She would always ask for Boston Cream Pie for dessert.

I miss Carole, who died three years ago at an age much too young, and I had started to miss her long before the awful morning we found her in her bed, a least a day gone.  I have missed her since she started to show symptoms of what was later diagnosed at Schizophrenia.

So today, Memorial Day, I have decided to post the Eulogy I wrote and delivered at her funeral.  May she rest in a peacefulness of clarity and quiet strength.

At 10 years apart, Carole and I had very different childhoods, and I was only 9 when she spread her wings and moved out of our house.  I remember going with our mother to visit Carole not long after she had moved away, a whole mile and a half away, to a studio apartment in downtown Attleboro.  She had a new blue chair, and other assorted furniture, but the focal points of her new home were her stereo, her albums, her guitars and sheet music.

As excited as I was that my sister now had her own apartment, it is an old memory, and it is difficult to describe the empty feeling I felt while in my now “own bedroom” which we had shared for years, or when I would go to the playroom in the basement and where the stereo, guitar, and albums had stood were empty corners.  The music that always filled the air was silent.

On the other hand, not long after Carole was out on her own, she got her driver’s license, and Daddy bought her first car, a little Toyota Corolla  – which she treated like a baby – and she would sometimes come pick me up and we would go toodling around and occasionally out to eat.  Driving gave Carole a tremendous sense of adventure, and as much as she hated the family “Sunday rides” as a passenger, I think she would have relished them as a driver.

I have come to understand that for me the best way to honor those who have died is to let their lives teach us ways in which we can honor the living, and to share the lessons they have tried to teach us while living and moving with us, and possibly even more so through their departure.  If you would indulge me for a few moments, I would like to share some of the lessons our sister Carole taught us with her life.  These notes are the result of a silent dialogue with her spirit over the past week; most of them are addressed to her.  You are welcome to listen in.


Dear Carole,

When I was 3 or 4, maybe 5, you kindly and patiently taught me the difference between ½ hour, 1 hour, and 1 and ½ hours.  I being the baby had to go to bed much earlier than everyone else in the family, and night after night, when you would quietly come into our shared bedroom, hoping against hope that I would be asleep, and find me awake upon hearing my question, always, the same:  “Carole, when are you coming to bed?”  You would gently tell me an amount of time, usually ½ hour, 1 hour or 1 and ½ hours.  Then upon my request, you would sit on the edge of my bed show me on your wrist watch how many times the hands would go around the dial to match the time you had told me.  You helped me learn about time and how we measure it, and I thank you.  You showed me how to be kind and patient with a little child, and for that I thank you a thousand times.

As we both got older (I being 6ish and you being 16ish), and I was allowed to walk downtown with you on an occasional Saturday afternoon, you taught me that it is possible to do things we don’t want to do, and only because it is the right thing, although as I ponder this, I suspect that there might have been some financial incentive for you to finally give in and agree to let me go with you.  Thank you for putting up with me, even though having me by your side cramped your style.  I loved Saturday’s downtown with you.

You taught me that Nancy Drew mysteries were a great place to start book reading.  How did I learn that since you were not one who loved to read?  You left them behind on the bookcase in our room when you moved out.  After the excitement of your new apartment wore off, I found Nancy, Bess, and George to be reliable companions on a Saturday afternoon.  You taught me that a Saturday night with beans and hot dogs and brown bread for supper in the company of Grandma, Jackie Gleason, and even Lawrence Welk could honestly be a fun time.  You taught me how to play many card games, and I will remember our fierce competitions and how we laughed the day I realized the irony that although you were a pacifist your favorite card game was War.

Thank you for allowing me to wear your love beads.  You had so many colors, but I think the purple ones were the best.

You taught me how important family gatherings are and how much they can mean to the family members who spend a good deal of time in their own company.  You always arrived in good cheer and ready to enjoy your little nieces and let them know in your own way that you love and appreciate them.

You taught us that talented musicians do not necessarily become famous or go on tour.  Many times they can be found in our own homes in the solitude of a weekend afternoon.  You taught us that persistence gives reward though your years of guitar lessons and diligent practice.

You taught us that we all have something to give, even though outward appearance would belie it, and that a sympathetic ear or a shared tear are more valuable than anything we can measure.  You taught us that wisdom and insight can be shared in short simple sentences.  Elegant flowing effluence is not required.

You taught us that there are perspectives on life, politics, society, and situations beyond what our limited scope of convention can observe, and so many times you hit the nail on the head when you would point out a view that would catch us by surprise.  You taught us that stubbornness and fear come at a very high price.

You taught us that sensitivity and intuition can show itself in mysterious ways.  You taught us that even when we think we are stretched to our limits we always have more to give if need be.

Always carry an apple – you never one when somebody might need something to eat.

You taught us that even though life may turn dark and watery and difficult to navigate, causing us to use all of our wits just to survive, every day deserves to be greeted with the best intentions.

You taught us that we need to always try our best, even though it may not appear that way to others.  Thank you for teaching me that I have much to learn in life, and on many levels must I learn the lessons.  You have generously shared the most important lesson of all, and it took all of your remaining earthly energy to leave it with us.  I believe it is this:  Jesus is right.  When we can let love, real Agape love, God-love, active, living love, be the starting point for every action we take and every word we utter, our cup will overflow, and eventually every corner of the universe will be flooded with all that is right and good and holy and evil will be no more.

Dear Carole, May your rest be peaceful and until we meet again. You will always be remembered as the independent soul you strived to be and the spirit who is as free as a feather on a breezy autumn day.


1 Comment

  1. Descartes said,

    May 31, 2010 at 10:14 am

    We are never ready for death, but I like the idea that there is always something to be learned from the life that was lived. I especially like the bit about carrying around an apple. It’s also been a while since I heard the term Love Beads, always liked that idea.

    Great post.

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