“Courage is grace under pressure” – Ernest Hemingway
My oldest sister lost her three-year fight with cancer, but not before demonstrating courage and grace to rival any Hemingway protagonist, and not before wrapping her life up in as neat a bow as anyone could hope for.
Her legacy was perhaps clearest during her funeral when all eight of her children and their spouses performed Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of the folk hymn “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”. They, rightfully, had the most reason to weep, but they, too, showed grace under pressure and instead had all of us in tears.
All through the weekend the love they had for their mother and mother-in-law, and for each other, was on full display. They were determined to honor their mother no matter what it took, and I suspect the full loss won’t be realized until afterward when they try to get back to the normal routine.
I last saw my sister a few weeks ago during a brief visit. She had already gone downhill considerably, and it was difficult to know how coherent she was. But as I sat next to her I’m certain she sensed my awkwardness. She took my hand, and through that touch I believe we were both able to communicate what we couldn’t have put into words.
My sister leaves a very large hole. She was not perfect, as many stories fondly related over the weekend attested. She was not famous or successful by any commonly accepted definition. But if there is a God and a judgment day–and I believe fully that there is–there are few shoes I would rather be in at that time than hers. She did not live large, but she lived well, and her loving influence continues to spread across two generations and growing.