On Tuesday, I took about 4 hrs off from work to attend a neighbor's funeral. Around the corner live a woman, her husband and her sister. I'll call the woman Connecticut Yankee and her sister will be Sweet Sister.
I don't even remember how I met CT Yankee and Sweet Sis. It may have been in my initial pie delivery from my little red wagon in 2005. But meet them I did. And we hit it off immediately. CT Yankee and I very quickly made the New England connection. But then we made the Connecticut connection. I grew up mostly in CT. And I grew up about 20 minutes from where she grew up. Actually, she was born and raised in the next town over - the town in which I had my first job as a prep cook (oh the glamor!). Sweet Sis was incredibly sweet and just a lovely woman so I have gone out of my way to run down the stairs and call out a greeting at the door if I see them walking their dogs.
One time...I think it was in 2006, Sweet Sis was walking her little dog with one of her grand nieces (CT Yankee moved here to be near her daughter & 3 granddaughters). I was on a neighbor's porch when I heard a commotion. I turned around to see Sweet Sis down on the sidewalk and her grand niece trying to help her up. I went running over and asked if I could call an ambulance or go get her sister. She didn't want me to do either. But she was having a hard time getting up. I had always noticed her being a bit unsteady and had incorrectly assumed she was a stroke survivor. She actually had Parkinson's. Anyway, her grand niece and I got her up and she was able to make it home. I never mentioned that again and hoped it hadn't embarrassed her.
On Christmas day, I was in the driveway with Big Sis and Tall Guy saying goodbye. CT Yankee, her hubby and Sweet Sis all came walking by with Christmas cards in hand. They hand delivered one to me and met my Big Sis and Tall Guy. We exchanged pleasantries and I hugged the two sisters. They walked away continuing their walk back home around the block.
A couple of days later, I saw CT Yankee walking the dogs. I ran outside to say hello. When I did, she gave me awful news. It appears that when they had returned to their house on Christmas day, Sweet Sis had a massive stroke. She was taken to a hospital in Austin.
She ended up being paralyzed. She lost sight in one eye and partially in the other. She couldn't speak and they said she never would again. She could hear. But aside from that, she was locked in. Trapped in her own body. It was just too horrible to imagine.
I prayed hard. And I prayed the hard prayers. I asked God to please do what was best for Sweet Sis. And to comfort CT Yankee and her family. I had an idea what the best might be but wasn't sure what God had planned.
Last Friday, I was coming home from a daytime appointment. I saw CT Yankee and her hubby getting in their car. The time of day worried me as I knew they'd normally be with Sweet Sis. I drove over and asked for an update. Hubby had to tell me. CT Yankee couldn't even say it. Sweet Sis had passed about 2 hours earlier. It was painful to hear. But God is good. He didn't let her linger too long.
When I got the email with the date and time of the funeral, there was no doubt in my mind that I'd go. And I'm so glad I went. CT Yankee and Sweet Sis were transplants to Texas like me. They haven't been here all that long so don't have a large network here. CT Yankee has a daughter and her family around the corner. And one son about 90 minutes away. The other children all live in California, I believe. So only the local family was able to come. A coworker of CT Yankee was able to come. And me.
At the viewing, I got to hear stories and watch a DVD of old pictures. I found out that Sweet Sis had never married. Never even dated. She had opted in stead to care for her ailing mother. Later, she cared for another sister that eventually died in her 50s. They had also lost a brother when he was 52. Sweet Sis had spent her life in service of those that she loved the most. It just filled my heart to know that. It made so much sense of the sweet demeanor I had encountered. She was just the most amazingly gentle and loving woman.
I also learned that her unsteadiness had been from Parkinson's, not a stroke. CT Yankee told us all a cute story. Their pug, Max, loved to sit up on Sweet Sis' lap. All 26 pounds of him! Because of her Parkinson's, her hand would shake. Max loved this because he just thought she was always petting him! I just love that story.
CT Yankee also told me that Sweet Sis had indeed told them about her fall and my assisting her. It had meant a great deal to her. I'm glad I was able to do that one small thing for her. She also told me that I had been the last person to hug Sweet Sis. I cannot tell you how wonderful that made me feel. I feel very blessed to know that.
You know, years ago, I had sworn off funerals and the like. I cited some half baked story about how my own father's death had put me off of them. Not really true but most people left me alone when I waved that flag. I just couldn't handle them. I didn't like the morbidity I presumed it all represented. I didn't like to be reminded of death. I didn't like the doom and gloom. What a silly git.
Over the years, I've realized that it ain't about me. I now understand that I am there to pay homage to that person. Not because that person needs it. What do they care? It's for those that remain behind. Those that are missing that person terribly. It's to show the survivors that your loved one MATTERED. Your loved one made a difference in some one's life. Your loved one made this world a little better for being here. I honor the dead to help the living. I actually felt it was my honor to be there for Sweet Sis and her family.
And I'm so glad I got to see that DVD of family pictures. I got to see Sweet Sis as a young woman, smiling and happy. And I honored her family. They are people worth that effort.
I will miss Sweet Sis. I will make sure to watch out for her little sister while she's gone.