“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, He rescues those who are
crushed in spirit.” ~ Psalm 34:18 (NLT)
Nine Minus One
By Eileen Umbehr
Nine minus one
I don’t like that equation
Nine minus one isn’t right
We’re a family
And families always stay together
“Patricia’s lost,” Keen said.
I wanted to physically push the words back -
Back through the air to where they came from.
“We lost our Patricia today,” Nikki said.
“Why did you tell me that, Daddy?” Caitlyn asked.
Kyle cried. Right before his birthday.
We all cried.
We cried together.
And now we cry again
As a family of eight
Instead of nine
Five girls and three boys just isn’t right
Our circle is lopsided now
Without our Patricia
Nine minus one
Nine minus one
Will we ever get used to this?
I’d like to begin by thanking everyone who sent cards, letters, emails and even flowers – all expressions of sympathy to me and my family after the unexpected death of my sister, Patricia. Every word, thought and prayer has touched my heart. Thank you so much for letting me know that you cared.
“. . . weep with those who weep.” ~Romans 12:15b (NKJV)
This note from my dear friend, Scott, was very special to me:
“Accept the heartache you feel, and cry the tears that come naturally. It is the balm of these tears that begins to heal the broken heart. As long as there is still a twinge of memory in your heart, Patricia will live on. As long as her life's story is told in your column, she will live in the hearts and minds of countless people. When I think of the loved ones I've lost, I remember this quote: "Some people think we're made of flesh and blood and bone. Scientists say we're made of atoms. But I think we are made of stories. When we die, that's what people remember, the stories of our lives and the stories that we told." --Ruth Stratton
Hang in there, my friend. Cry for Patricia, and never, ever stop telling her story.”
This week I’d like to share some of “Patricia’s story” with you, as told through the words of those who knew her best and loved her most.
From Connie, Patricia’s sister:
“Her quick wit made her such fun to be around. Her laugh was contagious . . . I think I’ll be able to hear her laugh, see her laughing, always ….”
From Amy, Patricia’s niece:
She hated to be in front of the camera. She wanted to be behind it. She wanted to be snapping pictures of Connor's funny faces. She wanted to catch me with my hand on the back of my swim-suit, after a nose dive onto the sand. She wanted to say "Get closer together! Zach! Lean in!" – as the cousins laughed, and tried to hold photogenic smiles. She wanted to create collages, calendars, greeting cards – each bearing a bit of her heart – a bit of her spirit, joy and passion in each photograph. She wanted to be outside her home, taking the most fantastic pictures of birds, of green fields, of the people she lived for. The people she lived for. . . .
It makes my head reel and hurt and my fingers go numb, grabbing tissue after tissue after tissue to soak up tears, to soak up memories, to soak up the muffled sound of my mother saying "...Patricia..." into my dad's shoulder.
From Nikki, Patricia’s partner, in a letter to friends and family:
“We are all crying a lot and laughing a lot and sitting quietly a lot. (It is Semanta Santa weekend, the biggest holiday in Mexico, so we have to wait until Monday to do paperwork.) More friends and family have arrived and are continuing to arrive and I am grateful for that. Our Patricia was so loved! And the outpouring of love has been incredible.
The reality of the permanence has not scratched the surface. What everyone knows, without a doubt is that Patricia died while laughing, without pain, and surrounded by people who loved her and the Sea. As Diana said, Patricia’s hand is on all our hearts, helping us. We are so sad and so blessed.”
From Roxy, a dear friend of Nikki & Patricia:
Patricia would always be so choosy when she took a picture. She always had to take it from just the right angle so it looked its best. I think she did the same with all of us. She saw us with all our flaws and quirks, strengths and weaknesses, then chose to look at us at just the right angle. Seeing us as special and talented, wonderful and witty in a way no one else could.
From Joanne, Patricia’s sister:
Patricia, Patty, Patty Paprika
My sister and friend
As children and women
Memories, laughter, crocodile tears
Too few years
To know and love you
And though I know you’re
“Dancing with the Angels”
How my heart will miss you
My sister, my friend
Joanne, Janny, Jan
From Patricia’s niece, Melissa (excerpt of poem by Melissa & her fiancé, Mark)
She’ll surely be missed, today and every day
But we find comfort knowing, she’s just a thought away
And that’s thanks to her pictures, smile, and wonderful memories, too
I know she’ll keep snapping photos from her heavenly view
I understand one of her last pictures, was of the sunset and its beautiful ray
Fitting, I guess, because it will come up again to start a new day.
All of these memories were printed in the program for Patricia’s funeral mass in Minnesota on April 2nd. Our sister Peggy, who was only 18 months older than Patricia, shared several memories under the following subheadings: “The Artist” (Patricia drew balloons on the wall with her name written in the middle of them, but denied any involvement), “The Gardner” (Peggy & Patricia picked a “bouquet” of poison ivy for our mother), “The Traveler” (she once “escaped” from the house to the playground, and she loved to travel as an adult), “Team Player” (they would be in charge of babysitting their seven siblings and would consult about who should get a checkmark by their names), “Musician” (she loved to play the viola as a child and the recorder as an adult), “The Walker” (they would walk to Our Lady of Grace School in Edina, Minnesota, and Patricia continued to enjoy hiking), “The Navigator” (Patricia learned to read a map at an early age so she could sit by our Dad on long trips, instead of being crammed in the back of the station wagon with the rest of us), and lastly, “The Listener.”
Peggy concluded: “Patricia was more than her talents and abilities. She had a heart and soul alive with love. May she continue to shine that light of love upon us all.”
From Joe, Patricia’s brother:
We will miss her beyond what words can say. However, I believe her spirit is now with us all, and we will never truly be without her. I think Josh Groban’s song, You Raise Me Up,” says it very well: “I am strong when I am on your shoulders; “You raise me up to more than I can be.” Patricia has raised us up, all of us.
I hope and pray that Patricia will experience in eternal life what she has shared with us in her earthly life: God’s great strength, eternal peace, and immense joy.
“…we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord.”
~ II Corinthians 5:6b (NLT)
Our Patricia, 2004