Saturday, August 1, 2015

Remembering Elaine -- but words are inadequate

A week ago today I was in Arkansas. I was on my way there when Mom called and said my sister-in-law Elaine had died. I had just turned off the car radio and run through "On Eagles' Wings" and was singing through it again, wondering if I might have a chance to sing it for Elaine, when Mom called with the news. I was near Wewoka -- about an hour into the 3 1/2 hour drive -- and had to decide whether to turn around or go on. I could not imagine turning around, so when I called my husband, the conversation included whether he would be willing to try to bring the clothes and other items I would need. He graciously said he would, even though we both knew it would involve him having to work through some of my issues (translate: messes) that are very frustrating to him. (It's interesting that I knew she could die at any time, but for some reason I had decided it would not happen that weekend, so I did not bring the extra items.)

How do a 57-year-old husband (my brother, Mike), three daughters ages 16 to 27, a 90-something Mom, plus siblings, and countless friends and extended family say good-bye to a saint on earth? That became the task at hand: finding the ways to let go and honor and remember and grieve and plan and prepare and celebrate and be grateful and stay faithful.

By the grace of God, it all comes together. Flowers. Written tributes. Pictures. Receiving friends and family and their outpourings of love, food and service. 

Underpinning it all is faith, expressed through individual and group prayers and expressions of gratitude and praise to God,  as well as attendance at church on Sunday, a rosary service on Tuesday and a funeral Mass and the graveside rites on Wednesday. 

I stayed from Saturday to Wednesday. I don't know what I was able to do, but I was acting in faith that it was where I was supposed to be, even if as nothing more than a quiet presence. 

Mostly I pray. I prayed and tried to be a friend and presence during Elaine's journey with cancer since late 2013. I continued to this past week and still do now. I don't know what to say or do or write. About the only thing I did with confidence was sing "Trust and Obey," the request of my brother after we had sung it at church Sunday. And even the strength and confidence of singing Wednesday was God, not me. 

I will never understand why a vibrant 54-year-old saint on Earth must leave this life so soon. The magnitude of such a mystery is second only to the great sense of sadness and loss from her physical absence. 

And yet, we know she is very much with us. The faith of my brother and their daughters and her Mom and siblings are an inspiration and example to all. We will remember Elaine and be grateful to God for his rich blessings to and through her and her family. 

And words still seem so inadequate to express all that is in my heart. In fact, they not only seem inadequate, they seem to possibly minimize what I and others have experienced and may now be feeling. 

Lord, I just lift this up to you as I try to preserve thoughts and memories associated with our beloved Elaine. 

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