Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Celebration of Her Life....

....The title of the pamphlet they handed me at the door.

Thursday night I attended a memorial service for an amazing woman, my dad’s cousin (I have no idea how that relates to me) Pat.

At first glance, she may not seem so amazing. She was a stay-at-home-mother who left her career to do so. A career that she had before women had careers, much less agonized about leaving them, then returned to it after her children were grown. Her hands cradled and soothed and disciplined five children. She taught them to love music, to fill their lives with it, made it her legacy. One of her grandsons sang Ave Maria at the service in a voice worthy of that song. So far that seems fairly ordinary.

I did not know her well, but I wish I had known her better. She was my father’s cousin, although she was almost twenty years older than him. I met her at some family gatherings, Christmas and birthdays, over the course of ten years when my father rediscovered that side of his family after his second divorce. She should have been one of those relatives you need to be reintroduced to every Christmas. But she wasn’t. There was something remarkable about her, something bright about her spirit, so that you always remembered her. It was almost like she was more alive than most of us because she was always living out loud. Her life was full of her hobbies and loves including singing, guitar, stories, golfing, argument (she loved a good debate), and family (even those of us extended family hanger’s-on). Her home, the gathering place most Christmases, reflected her soul, an open concept tri-level on a large open lot, filled with her artwork and cross stitch projects, where the kitchen and dining area were at the heart. That was how she was amazing and extraordinary—in her zest for life, her celebration of it.

By the log in book at the service was written a favorite saying of hers, words she lived by:

It is not for us to deliver to God a pristine vessel that we cared for and pampered, unmarred by life. Rather, I will return to Him in a body well-used and worn, a margarita in one hand and a song on my lips, telling a joke and dancing, asking where the party is.

Who was she? A mother, a wife, a grandmother, a business woman, a musician, an artist, an athlete, a friend, a fighter. Intelligent and strong. Full of life and not afraid to live it to its fullest.

Unfortunately, about nine years ago, about the time my own family was expanding, she and her husband had retired to Arizona. I had not seen her or most of that side of my family in about five years, since the last Christmas gathering. Our families had drifted apart. Her children (who had been important, visible Adults in my life ten years ago—that was Dad’s family) remembered me as little more than a pony-tailed awkward girl grown into a shy, quiet and just as awkward single teen aged mother, my daughter a little toddler spit-fire. And I remembered the young man who sang such a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria as a little ruffian, tearing around the house with my brother (my half-brother, actually, who is eight years younger than me). The time gap was strange, eerie, and shocking, and I felt almost as if we were all transported out of time briefly. I felt like I was seeing myself through their eyes, a stranger, this woman grown whose huge family they had never even heard of was tucked away at home, like they were now strangers to me.

I looked around the room and saw the women of our family, women of our blood and those who married in. We are all so different, unique at first glance: different ages, different careers, different paths in this life. Yet, there was a similarity in spirit of the women gathered there, a similarity to Pat. We are strong, intelligent women. We live out loud. We are mothers and friends and wives and artists and fighters.

Once again she had brought us all together, if not under her roof, then in the memory of her love for us all.


Blogger Sheri said...

what a beautiful tribute. thank you for sharing with us.

15 July, 2006 13:03  
Anonymous wolfbaby said...

She sounds like an amazing woman!!!

15 July, 2006 20:24  
Blogger Sharpie said...

Amen - living life to the fullest each day!!

17 July, 2006 08:44  
Blogger Northwoods Baby said...

What a wonderful memorial you give; I'd like to think I could be half the woman you say she was.

Sorry for your loss.

17 July, 2006 12:06  

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