“Today we laid my sister Carolyn to rest….she fought a good fight she finished the course and she kept the faith…l will miss her dearly. Till we meet again in the presence of our Lord and savior Jesus…. rest in peace big sis.” 

These words came from my younger brother, which he posted on Facebook. I borrowed them because I had none of my own to share.  I’ve been borrowing family quotes since the day it happened.

But it’s true. Today we celebrated my sister’s life and mourned her death. Before I tell you anything about the service, let me share a little bit about my sister’s life with you.

My sister
My sister

As a junior in high school, Carolyn received a state-wide award for writing an essay about the importance of libraries, and was invited, along with her mother, to meet Pennsylvania Governor Shapp. Throughout her four years, she was active in her student government and served as President of her senior class. She graduated from Rice Avenue Union High School in 1974. Following high school, she trained to become a police officer and also attended secretarial school. She worked for several years at a half way house in Erie, for women coming out of prison. Later, she took time off work to raise her family, and eventually began working at the State Correction Facility at Cambridge Springs, where she was in charge of the sally port, retiring from there in 2008.

She was actively involved in the Federated Church of East Springfield, and served with her husband on the board of directors at Love Inc. (Love, In the Name of Christ). She, along with her husband, also counseled  soon-to-be wed couples through the church. She enjoyed ice skating and bargain shopping with a purpose. Her family was her priority, and she loved taking care of her grandchildren. 

I heard several people say she had a beautiful service. One said it was the best he had ever seen. I don’t have much to compare it with as I haven’t attended many.  I cried through most of it. I can’t imagine my life without my sister.

But for a long time I couldn’t imagine my life with a long white cane either.  Until I began to use it as a tool to help me “see” where I was going. Walking with a long cane isn’t the same as walking without one. But it’s beautiful in that it gives me continued independence.

Likewise, if I sweep my cane ahead of me and take my life step-by-step, I’ll be able continue my journey forward.

My life will never be the same without my sister. I think I have to learn to walk in a brand new way.  It will take awhile to embrace it but I know it’s going to be beautiful in that the “cane” my sister willed to me was her life example.

In short, it was her Christ-like spirit.

I have watched my sister model various techniques throughout her life and especially over the past three years as she learned new techniques like long-suffering, patience and an uncomplaining spirit as she dealt with her leukemia.

Caring, compassion, warmth, an outstretched hand, generosity, thrift, a welcoming smile, forgiveness, a positive nature, wisdom, responsibility, intimate knowledge of the scriptures and a personal relationship to her Savior are all legacies my sister shared.

Sometimes I move ahead confidently with these skills. Other times, I flounder. I haven’t practiced some of them very well. I need to make them second-nature. I get my cane tangled as I try to move forward. I drag my cane in puddles of self-pity and catch it on scraps of anger and discontent. But now when I run up against these, I’ll try to toss off the rubbish my cane comes up against and sweep my cane smoothly to move straight ahead.

A shared philosophy
A shared philosophy

When the hospice nurse told my sister that her days left were few, she planned her own funeral. She was always a great organizer. In fact, she told the minister she felt so blessed to have input.

She wanted everyone to take part in the celebration of her life. She asked my mother for a song choice, and me to help write the obituary. She asked my brother to be pall bearers (similarly to how she had asked them to be ushers in her wedding). She chose the rest of the music, the scriptures, and even involved the grandchildren she adored by asking them to dance for her. (They love to dance).

Three points stand out in my mind from the service.

1. God gave her “increased faith and strength” in increments to handle the challenges of increased pain.
He promises that He will meet our needs.
2. She is hidden in the shadow of (an eagle’s) wing
He promises to protect us and be with us through the fire.
3. He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, a temporary death.
It’s not a real one, for she will live with Him forever.

After the minister talked, “the girls” (five granddaughters, ranging in age from seven to a year old) danced on stage to the song, Soon and Very Soon. The girls wore little white dresses and angel wings. In the beginning, the girls’ mother danced with them in a circle, holding hands but they left to let them dance for her alone. It was the most beautiful dance I’d ever seen. I cried all through it.

We had a few more songs and finished with In The Sweet By and By and I’ll Fly Away. It was a celebration of her life and envisioning her flying after being bed-bound opened another floodgate in me.

The service finished with touching testimonies by friends and family.

I realize that it’s very personal to blog about a funeral of a loved one, someone others don’t even know. Though my sister led a private life, maybe she wouldn’t mind me sharing now. She’s on my heart and in every thought I have. I can’t not write about her.

I asked my niece how the girls are doing. Of course, they don’t really understand. It’s difficult to tackle the confusion of where “Ga-ga” is, the question all the granddaughters are asking, including the littlest, who asks it often.

I like to imagine it this way. She has come out from the shadow of the eagle’s wing and is flying freely with the angels. Just like the song she ended her service with says,

                                     I’ll fly away, oh glory, I’ll fly away
                                    When I die, hallelujah by and by, I’ll fly away

                                    When the shadows of this life have grown, I’ll fly away…
                                   To a land where joy will never end, I’ll fly away

I'll fly away Photograph courtesy of Morguefile.com (free images)
I’ll fly away…
Photograph courtesy of Morguefile.com (free images)

 

 

 

 

 

Where is Ga-ga?
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14 thoughts on “Where is Ga-ga?

  • January 18, 2015 at 8:46 am
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    I will be honest, I usually struggle with my comments here due to your strong faith based writing. It is not something I am comfortable with and I do not ever want to say something that is false. So I step carefully with my words of showing my amazement in how strong you are and not wanting to present a false picture of myself.
    Today I do not have to do that. I can feel easily your grief and share your loss of someone who meant so much to you. I smiled and I cried and I am a little bit of a better person having picture your great nieces dancing their goodbyes to their grandmother.
    I understand completely the need to share what happened today and I feel privileged to have read it. Thank you. I hope you found some peace by sharing.

  • January 18, 2015 at 9:27 am
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    I’m so sorry for your loss, it does sound like your sister was a wonderful person. When we lose someone in Christ, we know we haven’t really lost them, in fact they are the lucky ones. It is us who are here, still waiting for His return, that suffer. Your sister is experiencing ultimate peace, rest, joy, contentment.
    Just as God gave her increased strength in the time her passing drew close, I pray He will continue to give you strength and uphold you in the coming weeks, as you adjust to life with her so far away.

  • January 18, 2015 at 10:36 am
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    How poignant to remember the best in your sister. You are so lucky, you know. Not many of us have such a shining example of love to remember. When I recall my loved-ones, the best and the worst of their personalities rise up in my mind. I love them despite their flaws. Lift your head up high and remember the good in her.

  • January 18, 2015 at 12:08 pm
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    Such a beautiful tribute, Amy. It brought tears to my eye. Thank you for introducing your sister to me. And my gosh, she has an incredible smile. Thinking of you during these days.

  • January 18, 2015 at 3:25 pm
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    Teresa Lynn,
    I love your honesty! It is difficult to find commonalities sometimes so I am honored that this spoke to you,
    I think I did feel a little more peace after I wrote it. There’s something to having committed feelings to words others read that draws out some of the pain. Thanks for making me aware of that!
    Amy

  • January 18, 2015 at 3:47 pm
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    Thank you so much, V.J. Mahew,
    Evidence of my sister is everywhere in the apartment, things she bought second-hand, to make my life easier. She was so close to her daughters. They lived nearby and visited her everyday even before she was ill. I think if we pull together, the transition will be easier. Thank you for your kind and comforting words.
    Amy

  • January 18, 2015 at 4:10 pm
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    Hi Francene,
    You are so right. My sister was far from perfect. I was often a peacemaker when she butted heads with someone over her strong beliefs but when she became ill, it was like God drew out the good qualities and receded the bad. She focused on the positive and thanked everyone for any kindness shown to her. I know that I am fortunate to have her shining example and to have witnessed how God matured her.
    Thank you for your balanced words. You have that in common with my mother. I’m sure you and she would get along so well. I wish you could meet!
    Amy

  • January 18, 2015 at 4:15 pm
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    Crystal,
    You are such a help for me!
    When the girls were dancing I thought of your “dancing barefoot” post!
    I’m certain God brought you closer to me to comfort me at this time.
    It’s like He zooms people in with a special lens when the need is greatest.
    Thank you.
    Amy

  • January 18, 2015 at 7:51 pm
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    Amy, this is such a beautiful tribute to your sister. As I read how she spent her time here I can’t help but think that your parents raised two remarkable women.

    I probably would have cried, too. And I definitely would have lost it with the little angels dancing. Just reading it I nearly did.

    My thoughts and prayers continue for you and your family. Although these partings are temporary they are nonetheless very painful. It takes time. Be gracious to yourself during this process. Know that you have people who care for you. Give yourself time.

    By the way, I like the way you ended this post. I’m kind of seeing the hymn “I’ll Fly Away” in a little different light. It is much more beautiful especially with the visual you added with the photo.

  • January 18, 2015 at 9:31 pm
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    A beautiful triute to a beautiful lady! Thank you for introducing us this summer. Though my knowing her was brief, I will remember her speical spirit. You were blessed. HUGS!

  • January 18, 2015 at 10:25 pm
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    Hi Amy,

    A very heartfelt piece. I am so sorry for your loss. Your blog has reminded me how fleeting life is down here. And although now is a season of grieving, the good news is that because you know Jesus and Carolyn knows Him as well, and in fact is with Him right now, you have a “blessed assurance” that you’ll be reunited in the future with her for all of eternity. I also think your younger brother sums it nicely, “Today we laid my sister Carolyn to rest….she fought a good fight she finished the course and she kept the faith…l will miss her dearly. Till we meet again in the presence of our Lord and savior Jesus…. rest in peace big sis.”

  • January 19, 2015 at 3:06 am
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    Thank you, Melinda.
    It really stood out in my mind that the shadow wasn’t death. So even if it seemed like it, it wasn’t from our Christian belief. God lay the groundwork for my sister to meet the trial because at some earlier point her small group studied “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” so my sister would have had some background scriptures to fall back on as a basis. God’s hand was in her life, helping her to meet it at various points. Even though she is the one who actually had to adapt herself to her illness, that is a comfort to me.
    Thank you for your continued prayers.
    Amy

  • January 19, 2015 at 3:08 am
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    Hi Beckie,
    I was blessed. And your friendship is another blessing!
    Thank you for coming. We so appreciate it.
    Amy

  • January 19, 2015 at 3:10 am
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    Matt,
    He does, doesn’t he? My brother is also the one who said my sister was “glowing” a week before she died. She seemed at peace, and that not only encouraged everyone, it also gave my mother and brother a beautiful image to remember my sister with.:)
    Amy

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