Saturday, October 3, 2015

Losing Eileen

Loss comes in two parts for me. It starts with the idea that a person I love is going to leave me, this earth, all the people to whom she gives love and from whom she receives love, forever. 

I won’t hug this frame again.
She will never walk through that door.
How does that smile not radiate across the table?
Who will read these books?
In that chair?
Who will have that voice of reason and that no nonsense approach in a world of nonsense?

Then comes the part when the person is gone. 
How quickly the timbre of her voice will leave my memory when I swear it won’t ever. 
How soon I will rejoice in a memory shared with me, new for me to take in, making me miss her all the more. 
The silent moment in a dinner conversation she might have filled. 
The beat of a moment when you realize she is not walking in the room behind her family. 
The vacuum of breath in that void.

At her passing, thoughts of which mourning is the worst has begun. Is it the one that comes first? The new slap of realization across the heart? Because that feels pretty terrible. Or will it even be more heartbreaking once she is laid to rest with witnesses to our pain and grief around us. We don’t even know the pain of it yet.

It will be both. 

There will be no winner. Mourning, both parts, will hold the ache in the throat of trying not to cry. The involuntary shallow inhale of breath when realization enters the mind. 
The tension of the jaw. 
The speeding of the heart rate. 
The heat followed by the chill.

And mourning has other branches. What I feel when I think of the husband being left behind. How would I feel as that spouse? And because her husband is my brother, how I ache for my brother’s pain. And then I think of her daughter. How unfair she loses her mother. How I would hate to lose my mother as a teenager. How I would hate to leave my teenaged daughter. How I would be so sad to leave my husband behind; my jealousy at his having the joy of raising our children. 

Or I would not have that reaction at all. 
Or I would be encouraging. 
Or I would be something I cannot now know because I am not in it. 
I don’t know.

We have lost Eileen. 

Her family has. 
My family has.
Our family has.
This world has. 
The Cape Cod air won’t have her to wrap around. 
No ocean nor bay will hold her solid form. 
The books she has not read will never be read by her. 
A student never under her guidance will never learn from her directly. 

We have lost Eileen.

I have gained so much in my 30 years of loving Eileen.
I gained a sister and a friend.
I gained grounding conversations and pep talks.
I gained insight from her openness to talk about her dying.
I gained understanding in watching her last days.

She brought us the human walking (swimming) and talking definition of determination.
She brought us warmth.
She brought us her family. 
She brought us chocolate.
She brought us the art of sleeping-reading on a couch.
She brought us waving hands of happiness before the hug.
She brought us someone to dance with Dave.
She brought us someone to love my brother as he deserved to be loved.
She brought us Ann Marie.
Thank you for Ann Marie.

The world was better with her in it and those who know her know she died too young. And I am thankful that I have 30 years worth of memories to wade through. And I know I can't have 30 more. 

But I will take some time to wish that I did.


  1. Hugs. Praying for y'all as you walk this path❤️

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  3. So sorry for you and your family. ❤️

  4. I was a student of Ms. Burkes Science class. She has been the teacher that made me love science and everything about it. She turned my school year into a memorable one. I am so sorry for your loss and i send your family my warmest regards.

  5. No words can say what a beautiful Lady

  6. No words can say what a beautiful Lady

  7. A beautiful tribute. I am sorry for your loss of a such a wonderful friend.

  8. RIP, Eileen. Enjoy your long swim with the angels.