Thursday, February 18, 2010

February: Ann's Eulogy

Grief is such a trip.

It's this invisible cloud surrounding me and through which my entire life is filtered, but nobody else can see it. I really GET why people used to wear mourning or mourning symbols in previous - whether recent or ancient - cultures: it's because you can ADVERTISE your state of mind.

So I'm trying to do small things in my life which both speak to my feelings of grief and process them. Like deliberately bringing my sister into conversations (not mindlessly, but relating experiences with her more deliberately than I used to, just to be able to TALK about her). And taking time to do a lot of silent, mentally untaxing tasks, like sewing, leaving my mind free to focus on that process.

So THIS post is a copy of my notes from her eulogy.

Giving a eulogy at a Mormon funeral was full of unexpected pitfalls, which is a completely different post about how out of touch I am with my roots, so much so that I hadn't thought I'd feel like such an outsider in that world at my own sister's service, and maybe a bit about the collision of my disbelief in an afterlife with the grieving of people convinced they'd see my sister again. But that's not today.

Ann's funeral was attended by 350-400 people, and it was held at the same church I attended my entire childhood, at which my father served as a Mormon bishop. The meeting house was packed, so full that I gave an involuntary squeak when I stood up at the speaker's podium and realized that the room was full all the way through the chapel and attached gymnasium.

Ann Marie was really loved and really impacted many many people. I miss her terribly.

Ann Marie's Eulogy - 12/16/2009___________

Hello and welcome.

I don't know how many of you ever spent much time with my sister, Ann Marie, on the telephone.

Ann is not a chatter. I doubt in the past thirty-odd years we ever talked about the weather, current events, movies, or our hair.

Phone conversations with Ann, like everything else in her life, were held eclectically and passionately. No detail of anyone's life seemed uninteresting to her. With her amazing mind, she knew and catalogued information about the smallest details of everyone's life, and would always respond to any confidence with a lot of heartfelt advice.

I never spoke with her without taking away information about what I should eat, a book or article I should read, a lecture I should locate, or some other specific, personalized symbol of how much she was listening to me and caring about my well-being.

Right now I have saved on my cell phone the last voice mail I'll ever get from Ann Marie. It's nothing unique in the history of our relationship: in the course of 2 minutes, she gives me the name of a supplement she thinks I should be taking, the website where I can order the supplement, the name and telephone number of a doctor she looked up for me to see in Portland who would prescribe the supplement if I needed, the location of the article she first found mentioning this supplement, including publication, issue and page number and it's author. She left that message three weeks before she died, when surely every bit of her energy was precious.

I grew up in a family of bright, intense, highly spiritual people. And of all of us, I think it's safe to say that Ann amplified those gifts to megawatt brilliance. I doubt there is any facet of her life that she didn't approach with a deliberate, scholarly thoroughness, whether it was child-rearing, home decorating, cooking, gardening, and, of course, reading.

Her passion was health, particularly nutrition, but no subject seemed unworthy of her intense scrutiny.

Ann had a wonderful sense of the ridiculous. Her eyes were always full of sparkle, and I can't think of her without picturing her gesticulating and rolling her eyes at something that made her laugh, whether from pleasure or disdain.

Some of you may know that Ann studied and could read in multiple languages, mostly to support her private scholarly pursuits and read historical and biblical texts in their original form. The few I remember are Ancient Greek, Ancient Hebrew, Mandarin Chinese, and I think Korean, as her husband Marshall spoke that language.

In Marshall, Ann was so lucky to find a partner who could match her brilliance and intensity. The two of them have always seemed so in love, and I have many early memories of observing their courtship and thinking how well suited they are.

I've always loved Marshall, but I have to tell you that these past few months seeing and hearing about his work to help Ann fight this, the worst battle, Marshall has been not just her partner, but Ann Marie's hero. During several conversations this summer and autumn, Ann repeatedly said that Marshall made her feel like a princess in a story.

I said that we never talked about movies, but many times she noted that she felt like Princess Buttercup from the movie The Princess Bride, with her Wesley telling her he would always come for her.

Marshall, Ann loved you so deeply and she knew how loved and cherished she was as your wife.

I've probably exceeded my allotted time. And in some ways, I don't think I will ever be able to stop eulogizing my sister. But I did want to tell her children - my wonderful nieces and nephews, who so obviously reflect their parents gifts - how loved they were and are. You don't have the smallest toenail that Ann wasn't interested in and devoted to, and I am proud and so happy that, while I will always miss her, that I will also always see her shadows and reflections in each of you.

9 comments:

a.c.b. said...

becky, what a beautiful eulogy. i feel blessed that i have had the chance to get to know vivian and her amazing family.

Sprite's Keeper said...

Oh, I can't keep the tears in check! Absolutely beautiful words. Your sister sounds like a lovely woman and I can see the love in your tribute.

korin said...

Oh Rebekah, thank you so much for sharing. thank you for sharing your grief with us, but moreso, thank you for sharing your sister.
love you, K

Joi said...

Oh Rebekah, that was lovely. Thank you so much for sharing this.

elliesmadre said...

This is beautiful Rebekah. Thank you for sharing it with us. I can relate to the feeling of wanting to bring her up in conversations. I still do that for my dad. Especially with Eleanor. Sometimes, I'll just go through every memory I have of him, so I never forget. And every once in awhile, I'll dream about him. He is always healthy and happy in my dreams. <3

Aunt Becky said...

I'm weeping. I'm so sorry, Rebekah.

radishly said...

this was so, so beautiful rebekah. and so sad. i've been thinking about you and your sister, and would love to hear as much about her as you are willing to share. <3<3<3

steenky bee said...

Tears! The tears. Oh, Rebekah, you need to keep her with you and in conversations. It helps you know she's there and that's just one of the small ways you can keep her alive. My heart just breaks for you. This was a moving post and your eulogy was just beautiful.

Jstar said...

tears in my eyes too! what an amazing sister, and what a beautiful eulogy