My sister-in-law died just over two weeks ago, and it feels like the trajectory of life has shifted a little now that she's no longer in my present or future. I came home last night from a weekend celebrating her life, and it was an awesome weekend - it's strange how, at such a hard and sad time, one can also feel pleasure in being with other people who loved her, and joy in remembering the one we all had in common. It was the most beautiful celebration of life I've ever been to, filled with white flowers and white candles, and it felt like Cathy was still with us throughout the service and the gatherings afterwards.
I knew Cathy for just over eight years and she entered our family during a difficult time. I wasn't really prepared to like her; in fact, I was resistant to liking her. But when I met her, she completely disarmed me by ignoring my outstretched hand and going in for the big hug. A warm, genuine hug that told me she was so glad to meet David's little sister. Her huge smile and laugh of pleasure softened my heart in just a moment. That first night, when I met her over a glass of wine on the beach in White Rock, BC, I knew she was going breathe fresh air into our family. I could see it, feel it...I knew why my brother loved her, and why I would, too. Very uncharacteristically, and almost against my will, I told her at the end of that first evening that I was going to love her.
Who does that?
But I did. And I did love her. I still do.
Cathy was pretty awesome. She had her faults, as we all do, but she was pretty dang awesome. Fun-loving, warm, and without artifice, she drew people to her. She had a way of making people love her, with seemingly no effort on her part. It was her gift. She was good for our stodgy old family, and she was even better for my brother, who adored her from beginning to end. It's fascinating to watch two people bring out the very best in each other; and she certainly did that for my brother. He became a warmer, gentler, more in-tune person with her. It was obvious to anyone who watched them together; he glowed when she entered the room and sat up a little straighter as her eyes looked for his. And he stayed with her and cared for her through the worst time in their lives, with a stamina that I don't know if I'd have, and with a commitment to honouring her that I envy just a little.
Many visits, many meals, many heart-to-heart conversations have been shared in the days since that first meeting. And my first impression of her never changed.
Then, all too soon, I flew out to Vancouver in August, to say good-bye to Cathy. She had been sick for quite a while already, and we all knew the end was coming. I had a chance to tell her how much she meant to me, and I was able to thank her for loving my brother and our family and for making us all better people for knowing her. It's a hard thing to say good-bye when someone is still living; but such a gift.
While I was still there, she rebounded a little and ended up making it home for another eight weeks. She was so grateful for that extra time; it meant she could say good-bye to almost everyone important in her life and tell them that she loved them, and why. She was able to share meals with people, deepen relationships, and do what she needed to do to prepare. That extra time was the one blessing during a very difficult time.
I want to learn from that. Life is so short and we don't know when it will end...we need to prepare. I want to be grateful for every day I have and to make the most of it. I want the people I love to know it, and I want to do the things that matter the most. I'm grateful to Cathy for teaching me that.
I noted earlier that Cathy is no longer in my future. But that's not true. I know exactly where she is now, and it's the same place that I'm going when I'm no longer in this world. Thank God!
Until we meet again, Cathy.