You laughed often and enthusiastically. You loved silliness and got giggly quite easily. Sometimes when you and our mother got together, a laugh-fest would erupt, and Mum would laugh so hard she’d shed tears.
You listened to opera, folk music, and rock-and-roll, and knew the words and music to every song, and could even sing in German and Ukrainian. We sang Christmas Carols every December, in English and German. You sang the hymns in Gammy’s old hymnal. You could sing anything until that neck operation robbed you of your beautiful singing voice.
You had to speak a lot in your work as a professor. You had very clear enunciation, which I’m sure your students were grateful for. I confess I used to love watching you talk because of the way you moved your mouth. You spoke with as much care as you did everything else. And I could always tell if you were relaxed, worried, annoyed or bored by the way you used your voice.
I hope your voice will go on haunting me. I miss it and I miss you.
She had so much to live for.
Doreen had reached the summit in her field of research. But she was still asking questions she wanted answers to. She would have followed another line of research had she lived. I can’t remember what it was. She told me, but because I’m not a scientist, I forget what it was. Maybe it had to do with her interest in evolution.
Speaking of evolution, what sense can I make of our human evolution? In order to accommodate our big heads, our mothers deliver us at an acutely dependent stage of development; our big brains have survival value. We learn and learn, explore and create, grow intellectually, until we die. Death does not seem like a sensible end to creatures with all that brain development.
Doreen enjoyed life. She had one of the liveliest intellects of anyone I ever knew. Her body, however, fell apart and no longer supported her.
I have no answer. I’m not sure I even have a question. But she should have lived longer, much, much longer. I can’t make sense of any of this. Can you?
“I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand.”
That’s what was playing as I sat out on the balcony, my sister Doreen’s memorial reception starting up around me. “Doreen, here’s to you,” I said to her memory, then raised my glass and drank.
I knew her as my big sister, my mentor, my friend. Other people knew her in their own way. Their tributes revealed several different facets of her personality.
I think my question, “What do you hold sacred?” And her answer, “Truth,” gave the true colour of her character. She told me she loved data, I guess because it revealed another little piece of the Truth. She was always searching for more and more of this. If the data didn’t support something, neither could she.
Some of her former grad students called her “Dragon Lady.” She was fierce when fighting for Truth in science. Someone said she did not suffer fools gladly. If you were her grad student, you had a moral obligation to serve Truth, and to do that she expected rigorous research, clear writing, and fearless defense of what the data revealed. And they loved her. When she committed to them she stood by and supported them, through good times and bad.
My sister passed away, and it will be up to me to give a eulogy at her memorial service. I will be praising her for the important role she played in my life. Twelve years my senior, she was a mentor as well as a sister.
I read what I had prepared to two friends today, and I broke down. This is not what I wanted. I hoped I could get through it without even a catch in my voice. There are some funny stories, so there is balance.
Does anyone have any ideas as to how I can address the subject of her loss without becoming maudlin? Your helpful advice would be very welcome.