Sara Whitman

My Sister's Memorial

Filed By Sara Whitman | January 09, 2011 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: memorial service, never let you go, sister's death, sister's memorial

Jake played harp. Flawless. Zachary read a piece he wrote about her as an aunt. Stunning. Roy's FuneralBen put together photos. Beautiful.

I sobbed through most of my speech.

My friend who ran the service... amazing. She talked about how it was the darkest day of the year, for the last 200 years (solstice with an eclipse). She talked about how she saw the love between sisters, with illness, and how hard it was.

Walter and Allan both spoke. Both with deep love.

Friends did readings.

The songs, sung with beauty, left me crying. I'll Fly Away and Down to the River to Pray.

People who were here, who didn't know her, said they felt like she was there, in a moment. They felt like they knew her.
I have to say, I didn't feel like she was here. I feel like she's gone. really gone.

Ben cried. I mean, sobbed in my arms at the end, for a long time. It was my tears that let him let go. My sorrow let it in. I saw that. I held him and held him and finally, he pulled away. I gave him a tissue and he threw it on the ground.

You've used that!

Then... my honorary daughter came up to him and held him. And the two of them cried.

I cannot explain how much that meant to me.

Tonight? Jake's best friend is here sleeping over. Zachary's best friend? has been here since yesterday at 3pm. He helped us set up, clean up, and hugged me so tight I thought he was going to break my rib. He's here again, too. Jeanine's uncle and aunt and cousin with family all came from iowa. Her mom, her sister, too.

The cats are finally out of the locked room. During the ceremony? My dog sat at my feet, as always. People snapped their fingers, trying to coax her away, but she didn't move.

Cathy's oncologist, who I invited, came by at the very end, after most people had left. She said, I had to tell you, the autopsy results were in. The cancer was aggressively in my sister's liver. They never understood the whole picture, she said. Stem cell... maybe it would have worked. Probably not. She said, you did the right thing. There was no hope. she said, I know Cathy wanted anything if there was hope. There wasn't any.

You did the right thing.

What a gift.

What an amazing gift.

This is what I said today:

My sister. Or, as Zachary pointed out, my seester.

I cannot believe she's gone. After removing her from life support, I sat with her, and expected at any moment she would sit up and crack a joke. It was impossibly hard to whisper to her to let go.

I didn't want her to let go. She was my big sister. A protector when I was scared as a little girl of our parents fighting, she would let me crawl into her bed and talked to me about anything and everything to drown out the loud voices.

And I was her protector when she was scared and sick in Savannah. I went down and brought her to a safe place. It was the first time in my sister's life that the world around her wasn't toxic. She was loved for who she was, not what she could give.

It was the way we were with each other. Always there to take care of, to hold, to love. We lived very different lives, but there was an unbreakable bond between the two of us. We made it through so much together. There were those who tried to pull us apart- but no one ever could.

We were seesters.

She was a wonderful aunt to my boys. Of course, she drove me nuts with all the inappropriate humor and gifts that I specifically told her not to buy. She would say, uh huh, and on Christmas day, the boys would be ecstatic, and I'd be shaking my head.

In this last year, the boys were a gift to her. She loved having them for sleepovers, and they loved going, as Aunt Cathy always had chocolate, chocolate and then, a little more chocolate. The time she spent with them, gave her incredible joy. She marveled at who each were becoming, and would tell me over and over, how much she loved them. How blessed she felt being their aunt.

My sister and I had a lot of adventures, most of which my kids will have to be 25 to hear. The one constant, through it all, was laughter. We always found a way to laugh at every situation. It was much easier to laugh because we knew if we started crying, we may never stop.

She told me, over and over, to let it go. Let it all go. I told her over and over she couldn't run away. We knew the other was right.

In the end, she went home. After years of cross country travel, chasing men and their dreams, multiple houses, she finally went home. She stopped running.

I love you my seester. I miss you so much.

I promise to let go of all the bad. All the pain.

But I will never let go of you.

(Photo via wickenden's Flikr photostream)


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All I can say is that we are here and do care.

Sara, I am so sorry for your loss. An online acquaintance I knew only as Dick wrote a beautiful passage about grief that I saved. A few months later, Dick died at age 79 from natural causes. He was humbled that his writing meant something to someone else, and I offer them today to you:

"…when grief hits, mourn deeply and thoroughly, in your own way, as long as it takes. But allow and celebrate the glimpses of joy that come with it. If the loss was great, expect the winds of memory to bring it back. So mourn again. Celebrate once more. With time, it will become easier but it will never truly end."

Once again, you've made your seester proud. I'm sure she's smiling down at you & laughing at all the hubbub.

Sarah, my sincere condolences. Losing a loved one is so very hard. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Michael