In the past five weeks, there’s been a lot left undone here at What’s Left Undone. Some projects have come to an end, and others are taking their sweet time coming together. The unknown has loomed large, and I simply haven’t felt much like writing.
Today, however, I sat in a church full of people I love, sobbing on the suit coat of my cousin, and listened to a message that I feel compelled to share.
Last Wednesday morning, my cousin Sandy died. She was 55, healthy, happy, and had spent Tuesday evening making plans for her latest business endeavor. She kissed her husband goodnight, went to bed…and simply didn’t wake up.
The news came as a horrible shock. In a large family like ours, we’re fairly accustomed to loss, but this….this was something else altogether. Sandy was special.
My whole life, I had Sandy. She was my cousin, but far more than that, she was my friend. We had more laughs together than I could possibly recount, and she was huge part of the milestones of my life. Sandy used to tell me all the time, starting from when I was about 14 and having children was nowhere on my radar screen, that when I had my own twins, I should have boy twins, because we already had girl twins (hers!) When I did, she told me what a great job I’d done.
Sandy used to say that we were identical cousins, like Patty and Cathy on the Patty Duke Show. “Meet Cathy, who’s lived most everywhere, From Zanzibar to Barclay Square. But Patty’s only seen the sights a girl can see from Brooklyn Heights – What a crazy pair! But they’re cousins, Identical cousins all the way. One pair of matching bookends, as different as night and day!”
Yesterday was the wake, and today was the funeral. To say that they were difficult is a ridiculous understatement. Sandy was so well-loved, by so many people, that it seemed impossible that our collective tears wouldn’t fill the church clear up to the steeple.
Sandy’s eldest daughter, Lisa, gave the eulogy, on behalf of her brothers and sisters. She made us all so proud.
There’s a lot of wisdom in this eulogy — wisdom that Sandy imparted to her kids, and, by example, to everyone who was lucky enough to know her. This is what Lisa said, and what I wanted to share with you:
Our childhood was filled with garage sales, farm days, and sporadic dance parties. Sometimes children don’t realize how awesome their parents are until they are older, but that wasn’t the case with our mother. We knew how cool she was…because she told us every day! She was a carefree spirit, she knew that life was all about love. She saw the good in everyone, and showered even strangers with love. She didn’t waste her time concerning herself with what others thought of her. She would laugh and tell us, “I do what I want!” She made sure to instill that in all of her children, too, and her favorite phrase was, “You do you.” This made it so easy to make mama proud.
She taught us the value of hard work. She would tell us that God gave us each talents, and it was our job to use them. That was the purpose of this life: to let our light shine, and not hide it under a basket. Everyday, my mom would put herself aside and go to work on the farm, where she devoted herself to honoring her mother’s memory…just as we will do.
A perfect day for our mom would be a picnic in the sunshine, with everyone together and enough food to feed an army. Even in her simplicity, there was so much more to her than met the eye. She thought on a deeper level. She was a dreamer. She was a poet. She was the best person we knew, and we were blessed to call her our mother.
Our mom’s selflessness went beyond the love of a mother. She truly loved with the heart of Christ. She gave everything she had to others, and no one ever went hungry. She never felt the need to take care of herself, because she was always so concerned with taking care of everyone else. As long as we were happy, mom was happy.
We will remember her beautiful smile, as bright as the sun. She was filled with supernatural joy, and her family was the apple of her eye. We will never have to doubt how much she loved us.
We are here to celebrate the life of our mother. Although her death has shocked us to the core, we will stand firm in our faith that this is not the end, but only the beginning. Our mother is in glory…rejoicing with the angels, having a dance party with Jesus!
So even in the midst of all of our pain, let us remember mom’s words: Each day is a precious gift. Do not be stingy with your love. Let us love loosely.
This is what I hope we’ll all take to heart: Dance when the mood strikes. Don’t let others’ opinions keep you from being joyous. Let your light shine. And LOVE — fiercely, abundantly, largely, relentlessly, and loosely. Do it because you never know which day is your last.
The picture below is one of my favorites. It’s Sandy and some of her favorite people. They’re in the midst of baking for an enormous festival, and no doubt had already put in more time on their feet than most people do in a month. But I’ll think you’ll agree that this picture captures a truth that we all know: everything was more fun with Sandy.
Rest in peace, Sandy. You loved so well, and were so well loved.