I recently returned from a funeral. My sister, Gara Brown, 75, was nine years younger than I am.
She died after a lengthy illness in a nursing home in North Carolina. I am sorting out my feelings about her death, which was not unexpected. It was a blessing for her, freeing her from pain and mental confusion.
We may all experience the death of a loved one at some time. If you have not, then perhaps my words may help you prepare for this occurrence.
Some deaths are unpredictable and therefore evoke more feelings. The cause could be from an automobile accident, a suicide, a war or a sudden heart attack. Other deaths, like my sister’s, were to be expected, but the time and date were unknown.
The effect of each death was different. The emotions I felt about my grandmother’s passing differed greatly from those that overwhelmed me at the loss of my younger son.
Loss of my parents brought another realm of sadness as did the deaths of two dear friends. But they all created questions I have to answer. Will I accept the news of my impending death graciously, perhaps even welcome it? Or will I resent my life being cut short before I accomplish all of my goals. How will people remember me? Will my work be appreciated?
We sang the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” at my sister’s funeral. Afterward, I was surprised when the priest asked me to say a few words about my sister.
My few words, though unprepared, came easily. I based my talk partially on the hymn. I told of my sister’s many accomplishments and service to her church and community.
I mentioned that she had also endured “dangers, toils and snares.” She had received honors and awards, scholastic and civic. She married a Marine who was in Vietnam, leaving her and her two daughters behind. Their marriage fell apart.
For 15 years she provided multiple services to her community. Those years probably were the happiest ones of her life. Her community acted as one body of which she was an essential part.
When she and her second husband moved to another town, she continued her activities until her health failed. Her second husband, almost 20 years older, became stricken with health problems also.
They stayed together until it was time for them to be placed in separate nursing homes. This was the time, I believe, when she began to think that death could bring relief to her suffering.
Her dearest friend was with her the last night she lived. The friend told us later that my sister asked whether her sisters, Carol and me, would understand that she was ready to go.
Our friend asked her, “Are you ready to go?” and my sister nodded.
It has been many days since the funeral, and yes, dear little sister, I want to say, “I am ready also to let you go.” But as I write this, I know I am not.
Grieving has to take place. Memories have to be scanned.
It will take courage accompanied by pain to arrive at my answer. The Bible chapter in Ecclesiastes reminds us “there are times for everything.” A time to live and to die; to mourn and weep; and most of all, a time to love.
The hymn, “Amazing Grace,” tells us that through love and grace, we will be led safely home, where we will all be together. I will see you there, Little Sister, one of these days.
Nancy Cramer of Independence is a retired teacher, having taught all ages. She also owned a small business for 17 years and has traveled extensively. She is a five-year volunteer at the National World War I Museum and has written four books on that topic.