by Ann Keeler Evans
I don’t know that I’ve ever done anything as hard in my life as keeping my promise to Deb to keep my hands and heart open to her dying. Although standing here today, admitting that she is really gone, is a close second. But a promise is a promise. And her exit from this life was triumphal with Tom, Nancy and I united with her as she went home to her loved ones.
I’m so grateful that we could be here, where so much of our lives has been celebrated. Glad to look up at what I’m sure is the Angel Gallery over here to my left. I know there’s a host of Old Beloved Presbyterian friends looking down in love, who will be a wee bit disappointed that Harry’s not going to play the Toccata in D. So much guidance and laughter and love in this place. (Waking up in the middle of the night story?)
Deb’s life was filled with tragic loss. When she was first diagnosed I wondered what her choices would be. She had a fierce and tender heart, but it had been patched together so many times. I wondered if the seams would hold through the horrible treatment. And they did, although she was weary at the end of treatment almost unto death. So weary, that when it became clear that the cancer was back and any treatments might simply prolong the agony, she made her decisions with clarity and grace. I am so grateful to the doctors and nurses who treated her and the amazing women who helped her exit with as much dignity and as little pain as possible. You eased her journey and a family’s hearts. Thank you. Deb died as she did everything: Made up her mind and off she went. And alternating all the while between snorting sarcasm and tender embraces.
I feel comforted, believing as I do that her family was there, arms opened, to receive her into a Peace far beyond my understanding. It must be said that on the day she died, a family friend called his parents that night and said, it’s thundering. Deb must have gotten to Heaven. I feel comforted knowing her pain is done, because her pain circumscribed so much of these last 20 years, even as she lived defiantly in the face of it. Those who didn’t know her earlier, might have been surprised to hear that she was not always a ringleader… She always felt she had been too timid, so she taught her children to stand up for themselves, and when they died, she took that on as her gift from them. She made up for lost time.
When I chose the date, I did it to accommodate friends and family members. I didn’t consciously choose the Day of the Dead, but here we are, celebrating, sorta. Deb was done with funerals, she didn’t care if we got together to celebrate her. I reminded her that we might need to gather to comfort one another and as her bratty little sister, that this was one place she didn’t get a vote. Because we do need one another when we mourn and would be comforted. We need the stories to warm us in the empty times ahead. For as glad as I am that she is at Peace, suffering neither in health nor heart, it doesn’t stop my heart from breaking all over again when I pick up the phone to call her and remember that she is gone and her voice is now an echo in my head and heart.
My sister was a very great gift to me. She looked out for me all my life, and even beyond. She forgave me for being the little sister. She did everything she could to make her passing easy on me even as I did everything I could to make it easy on her. Whatever else we don’t get right in our family, we all love each other. Deb loved many, many people, and if she could, she made their lives better as well. She was a great friend. She was wicked smart, and addicted to puzzles, one of those NYTimes crosswords in ink folk. She followed in the Evans tradition and participated in making her community a better place. She laughed a lot. She traveled. She did her share (and even a bit more) to stimulate the economy. She loved color and lived out loud (I admit it, I will probably never wear, but had to bring home the pink velour pants.) If you would remember Deb and keep her alive in your hearts, then take care of your loved ones and enjoy them now. Work hard to make your community a better, kinder place. Believe that you can and should make a difference. See the world and be grateful for its beauty. Laugh and enjoy life here. Wear bright colors and admire the scenery. In response to the glory of creation and the unmerited wonder of grace and hope, we are here to make the world sweeter and more interesting by our passing. Oh, Deb, you surely did that.
Remembering you, giving thanks for such a great sister I will endeavor do the same. And so I guess I’ve come to the place in the service I’ve dreaded. The one where I have to say the words I haven’t yet let pass my lips. Goodbye, Deb. Tell them all we love them. Tell them we’re doing our best with the precious gifts of Life that we have been given. May Peace be with us all until we meet again.
Three days before she died, Deb looked at me and said Annie, tell them this. I pushed the words around a little, added a bit more for balance, but in essence here is the blessing she wanted to leave us with…
May you do your best for your community
Share your heart with your family and friends.
May you lift a glass to the sweetness of this life
May you know that Love will never ever end.