Those who've lost someone they love know all about the 1st's--first Christmas after your loved-one passed away, first anniversary, and, of course, first birthday. Today is my sister's first birthday since she passed away and my love for her shines within a chasm. Memories are acute with the raw ache of loss, lit by joyful flashbulb bursts from celebrations past. I'm remembering my little sister with tears and many smiles as I gaze at photos and relive the times we shared. A happy haunting--I can hear her infectious laughter, a cascade, quickly rising, slowly trailing-off, almost musical and just shy of a giggle. I've decided to share the eulogy I gave at her memorial, hoping you'll share with me the fireworks of joy and make these memories part of your own, for as Clive Barker observed in Weaveworld, "That which is imagined can never be lost." Happy Birthday, Sis! I miss you and love you so much.
Tiffany’s Eulogy, February 1st, 2014:
I want to thank all of you for coming to celebrate the life of my sister, and for all your love and support for Cheryl and my Mom.
I’ve struggled to find words to describe how I feel about my sister. How do you sum up a lifetime in minutes, even one that ended far too quickly? Happy memories light up the darkness like flashbulbs, and I want to share a couple with you.
I see my sister as a little girl, with her sun-gold hair, riding on my dad’s shoulders as we hike in the mountains, the shadows of oak leaves flirting on her cheeks. She wears a puffy pink jacket; crisp autumn air. We come to a bush at the fork in the trail, covered with dead leaves. My mom pauses beside my dad as he stops and shushes us. He tells us to go ahead and we approach the bush. There’s something strange about the leaves--this, my dad’s big secret. Little fingers slowly reach out to touch the bush, and with a whoosh and blur of wings the air is black and orange, as what we thought were dead leaves burst into the air--a cloud of monarch butterflies that swirl around our heads. And laugher, my sister’s bright blue eyes go wide with wonder. She kept this magic in her heart, the magic of nature.
Later, still little kids, we hunted in our garden, searching for chrysalises suspended from branches. Sometime we’d catch caterpillars and feed them dill and milkweeds, my father teaching us which species ate what, until the fat caterpillars hung up and formed husks. We’d watch in awe with mom and dad when they at last burst free, spreading wings as Monarchs and Tiger Swallowtails. But even more than butterflies, she loved dragonflies, the buzzing, flying jewels filling her with joy. I’ll never forget how, years later, she smiled with pride when she showed me her dragonfly tattoo.
Flash to a picnic with me, my sister and grandma on the beach, my grandma wearing a big straw hat and movie-star sun glasses, enjoying a meal of Funions and tuna sandwiches. My sister and I, still little kids, go searching for sea shells, and bring them back like treasure to fill grandma’s big straw bag. We find a couple sand-dollars, my sister one that’s perfect, and grandma asks if we know about the little white doves inside them.
Grandma breaks a sand dollar, not my sister’s prize, and shows us the five white birds hiding in the center. I find a live starfish bigger than my sister’s head with pretty purple rings on its slimy leather hide. I hold it up and my sister touches its rows of sucker feet, which writhe orange beneath its arms--she laughs with delight. More magic for my sister to keep in her heart.
Another flash. My sister has a tea party for her dolls. Somehow she got doll clothes onto one of our cats, without the fluffy kittie, Sassy, scratching her to bits. Our cat isn’t happy; my sister laughs and laughs.
Cut to me in PJ’s, I’m about ten years old, walking down a dark hallway to use the bathroom. When I’m done, half asleep, I head back to my room, unaware my little sister hides behind the door. BOO! She yells, jumping out. My heart leaps from my chest. She got me good, and giggles until her stomach hurts. Our old ambush game--we’d always hide and scare--holding our breaths and jumping out when the other least expects. We tried it once on our dad. He wasn’t amused. Some of you know my sister always called me Boo. When I was in high school, I asked her why she always called me that. With a sly smile, she asked if I’d read To Kill a Mocking Bird! “Boo Radly!” I groaned--“That is so screwed up!” “I’m just messing with you,” she said, “remember our scaring game?” I was delighted, and her nickname for me stuck. Our scaring game, more magic--this time a bit black.
I’ve only two more flashbulb bursts that I’d like to share with you. The first is a flash of her brilliant smile as she graduates from college. She’s in her in cap and gown and we’re all so proud. She beaten the odds, escaped from the pit that nearly destroyed her, and graduated cum laude with a Biology degree. Her love of life and nature have never been stronger, and she’s planning on becoming a vet.
Last flash, I’m at Tiffany and Cheryl’s first apartment. Silly, big brother thinks that they’re both just roommates because my sister’s dated guys all her life. I notice all their books are in the bookcase together. I haven’t gotten the full tour, so I haven’t seen the bedroom. In the bookcase I see a book about lesbian relationships. My sister, who’s crept up behind me freezes with dread. I open the book and say “there’s some nice pictures in here.” The ice breaks and Tiffany hugs me so hard. I tell her and Cheryl I’m so happy for them. Several months later, my sister and I will have an argument about which of us has to “come out” to my parents first. “No you do!” “No you do!” It was comic and absurd. Twenty-years later Tiffany and Cheryl had built a life together, filled with adventures as they traveled together.
So I know this wasn’t a very traditional eulogy, but I hope you’ll keep these memories of my sister in your hearts, memories of her celebrating life, falling in love with nature, and falling in love with her partner, Cheryl. If you’ll remember me talking about the chrysalis, and the butterflies taking to the air, I think that’s the best metaphor for my sister. The last, hard years of Tiffany’s life were a chrysalis; now she’s burst free and taken to the air. Now she’s with my dad in spirit, hiking in the mountains, at the beginning of their greatest adventure. I love you, Sis. Your life made this world brighter.
Tiffany Michelle Crowther
March 6th, 1970 - December 13th, 2013