Thursday, April 28, 2005

Together Again

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” ~ I Corinthians 15:19

You had love for your family
Love for all people
Love for the Father, and Son
Your heart will be heard
In your unspoken words
Through generations to come
There’s so much that I don’t understand
But I know . . .
You’re dancing with the angels
Walking in new life
You’re dancing with the angels

Dancing with the Angels ~ recorded by Monk & Neagle

I realize that most of you who read this column did not know my sister, Patricia. But I also realize that most, if not all of you, have probably lost someone you loved. For this reason, I hope there is no need for me to apologize for writing about my sister’s life and death one more time in my Reflections column.

When I expressed this concern to a friend of mine, she encouraged me with these words:

Eileen....It is fortunate for us that you are gifted at grieving ~ in prose. So many of the things you have written or copied from songs, scripture and poetry have touched me deeply. Since my mother died in December, I am reminded of her in so many little ways.....and of course, in the big ones. Reading your words about your sister's early passing from this earthly place, and from your family, simply allows me to feel what I need to, and also to be thankful, like you, that I had the privilege of knowing this wonderful woman, of being alive, of loving and losing, and for all the pieces that continue to fall into place along the journey....Love, Kat

My manuscript editor, Barbara Lerma, said that it sounded like Patricia had the “ideal life and the ideal death.” To be vacationing in Mexico, splashing in the water, and feeling like a kid again, right up to your last moment, is a pretty good way to leave this world. Not to mention that she didn’t have to suffer. And the day before she had taken that picture of a sunset which she titled, “What I came for.” Yes, there is some comfort in the knowledge that Patricia was doing what she loved, with the people she loved, right up until the last second of her life. Of course the pain of losing her and the loss felt by those left behind, is still ever-present.

This Saturday, April 23rd, marks one month since our Patricia passed away. It is also the day that Patricia’s partner, Nikki, will be hosting a Celebration of Life service in Patricia’s honor. The ceremony will be held on Whidbey Island in Freeland, Washington, where Patricia and Nikki shared a home. Friends and family from as far away as Alaska, Arizona, Tennessee, Minnesota, Nevada and Iowa will be there.

I had always wanted to visit Patricia and see the home she loved so much on the island where she enjoyed the beauty of nature. The last pictures she shared with the family (via email) were some amazing photos of bald eagles which she took during a walk on the island. You see, Patricia was someone who not only stopped to smell the roses; she took pictures of them, too.

Patricia's Eagle in Flight taken on Whidbey Island

It’s kind of sad that I am finally making that trip after she’s gone, yet I feel the need to connect with Patricia’s world; to see where she lived, walk where she walked, and meet the members of her extended family who loved her so much. I sincerely hope that it will help with the healing and perhaps bring some closure – if there is such a thing.

The first poem I‘d like to share this week is one that my sister Mary came across and was printed in the program for Patricia’s funeral.

You Never Said Goodbye

Author Unknown

You never said I’m leaving
You never said goodbye
You were gone before we knew it
And only God knows why

A million times we needed you
A million times we cried
If love alone could have saved you
You never would have died.

In life we loved you dearly
In death we love you still
In our hearts you hold a special place
That no one could ever fill.

It breaks our hearts to lose you
But you didn’t go alone
For part of us went with you
The day God called you home.

After Patricia passed away, I went back and read the “Reflections” column I had written for her 53rd birthday in 2003. After talking about our family and what a diversified group we are, I finished the article with the following words:

“The bottom line is love. When my mom was on her death bed, she was repeating the word, ‘love, love, love.’ My sister Mary asked, ‘Do you want everyone to know that you love them, Mom? Is that what you’re trying to say? Do you want me to tell everyone that you love them?’ Her eyes widened and she nodded her head up and down. Then she whispered softly, ‘Always stay together….all nine.’”

I’ve been feeling so sad about losing Patricia and having to adjust to being a family of eight instead of nine. How can we stay together when one of us is gone? Then my sister Connie reminded me that we’re still nine; it’s just that one of us has gone on ahead. One day we will all be reunited again, but for now, those of us who remain will try to honor Patricia’s memory by living our life to the fullest, the way she did, and the way she would want us to. In addition, we can rejoice that our precious mother and sister are together again – dancing with the angels on those streets of gold.

This next poem was written on the way to Patricia’s funeral Mass in Minnesota; I later read it as part of the eulogy.

Still a Family
By Eileen Umbehr

They say that there’s strength in numbers
And I know for a fact that is true
But now our numbers are down by one
And we’re wondering how we’ll pull through

First came our sister Peggy
The matriarch of the clan
Followed by Patricia
Everyone’s biggest fan

Then along came Connie
The sweetest soul there ever was
And then there was Joanne
Who filled our home with song and love

When Joseph, the firstborn son arrived
Buttons burst left and right
Then Mary came shortly thereafter
To be our family’s shining light

And although that sounds like quite a crew
Our parents weren’t done yet
Along came number seven, Eileen
The family’s poet laureate

Bill was the next little brother
Giving Joe some company
Oh, how we laughed when we heard him sing
“Oh, my baby.”

Bob came along five years after Bill
Adding one more boy
He was and always will be
Our family’s pride and joy

Although today we gather to grieve the loss
Of our sister, Patricia, so dear
We know if she could she would tell us
To carry on and not to fear

So even though we’ll never be the same
And we’ll miss her terribly
The important thing to remember is
We’re still a family

Finally, I’d like to share a poem with a message that I think Patricia would echo:

Feel Joy
By Liz Hoffmeister

If you can,
Feel joy for me.
Feel joy.
I’ve gone where I most long to be.
Feel joy.
In every babe’s face that you see
From here on out,
See me and thee.
And if you can,
Oh, if you can,
Feel joy with me.


Give the kids a kiss for me
And say hello to the family
Tell ‘em all my future’s lookin’ bright
Well, I miss ‘em, but I’m doin’ all right
I said I miss ‘em, but I’m doin all right.

I’m All Right ~ recorded by Jo Dee Messina

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” ~ Romans 8:18

Mother and Daughter: Together Again