There’s a middle grade book that I just love. I read it to my class every year and they loved it too. It’s called Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt and it’s about four kids whose mother abandons them in a mall parking lot. The mom has serious issues and just wanders off. The thirteen year old takes charge and decides what they’re going to do and where they’ll go.
What made me think of it this week was eleven year old, James. Every morning he’d wake up and mumble, “It’s still true.”
And I guess that’s what I’m doing these days…waking up every morning and mumbling, “It’s still true.” Jerry is still struggling with speech and processing. And I’m still trying to figure out how to help without driving him (or me) nuts. We loved having Erin around for a few days and know how hard it was of her to leave her kids (thanks Brent) and come running at the end of the first week of school when kids are crashing from exhaustion. It was so good to have her around even though I think it left Jerry especially tired(probably from trying so hard to be “up” for his daughter)
So we figured we would be back to the “new normal” today. But it’s not happening. Last week, when Jerry came home from his first trip to the Y to work out, he had some chest pains. They weren’t serious, they didn’t last long and (silly me) when he said they were nothing, I believed him. But I did mention it to the doctor when I saw him on Friday and today we met with the cardiologist who decided it was time to take a look at how things were going with his heart.
So we’re back to the hospital..this time for a heart cath…tomorrow morning. Hopefully we’ll find out all is well and be back home by mid afternoon. There is a possibility that Jerry might need a stent or something …that will require a few days in the hospital (Jerry’s very favorite thing) Anyway, one day at a time, one minute at a time…insane, isn’t it?
On another subject, Kate’s sister, Frani, wrote the most amazing eulogy for her sister. She was good enough to call and read it to me early in the morning the day of the funeral. I laughed and I cried…Frani is a gifted artist AND a gifted writer…The girl has it all!
MY SISTER KATE IS A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW ……She ALWAYS WAS
TRY GROWING UP IN HER LONG CAST SHADOW. IT WAS INFURiating.SHE NEVER DID ANYTHING WRONG. THE NUNS WOULD Ask ,incredulously , of ME or KAREN “you’re KATE’s SISTERS.? ” And if you think we had to live up to that image there was POOR ROB. WELL HE DIDNT HAVE A CHANCE. When called in for a conference the NUNS WOULD SAY TO MAMS “you’re SURE he’s KATES brother?”
And what a bossy big sister she brings new meaning to that word. Every Sat AM she’d
‘drag us out of bed to do OUR chores. And we couldn’t go out to play til we did it good enough. You realize this is Kate NOT our mother! PETE & BREN being much younger dodged this scenario.
Yup, Tough Act to Follow
THen she trumps us all all by entering the convent! YEAH RIGHT….. Irish Catholic Family gets a get- into-heaven-free card ! A child with a religious VOCATION, R U KIDDING ME? What more could Catholic parents ask?
But we Thought we caught a break years later ,when after much mental anguish, Kate decides to leave community life with the Sisters of St Joseph. Boy was my dad mad. There goes his free-get- into-heaven free card!
For, us the sibs , the the bar has finally been lowered…just a bit
Then what does she do? She moves to Chicago and becomes a chaplain at Children’s Hospital. She spends her days dealing with terminally ill, dying children. She consoles the families of these children. And often, in the end , she was asked to give their eulogies. Beautiful. Eloquent Soothing words to ease their pain. I remember being in her office at Children’s and noticed a huge bulletin board filled with smiling but sick children’s faces. I asked Kate who all these kiids? She said these are the ones I played with and prayed for. They are all wonderful memories. Again that incredible act to follow!
We are constantly reminded of her uniqueness as her friends have texted, emailed and sent cards daily for over a year sharing with us her special gift of friendship. And Hallmark cards, a dying form of communication , was Kate’s forte.
NEVER was their an occasion that Kate did not send a very special hand picked card for that recipient. And if it went to the nieces and nephews THERE WAS ALWAYS A bonus: MONEY!
Kate loved the sea and the sun. When she was near it she was her happiest. While recovering from brain surgery or BS as I liked to call it. last fall BREN sent out the unforgettable picture forever burned in our minds, of her basking in the sun in the hospital’s prayer garden, head thrown back and bagging every bit of the Suns warmth
BEAUTY OF EARTH AND SEA AND AIR meant so much to Kate. She was in HARMONY with it. She’d walk in SOLITUDE for miles on the beach, feeling the sun warm her face, her neck her shoulders SOOTHED by the constant rhythm of the waves. So in February
We took her TO HER BE LOVED Venice Beach FL for one last season knowing how she dreaded the long, dark, cold, MILWAUKEE winters . This idea SHOULD BE CLASSIFIED under the category WHAT NOT to do with a brain tumor patient!
She wasn’t THAT Kate anymore. The one who did beach yoga at sunset, nor was she capable of solitary, OR ANY walks along the jetty. Years ago she took up knitting while in Florida. That door, too was closed to her. Her heart was truly broken. So
We packed up and took her home. REALLY HOME this time to her family in Boston.
Before we left she gave me an old favorite of hers: GIFTS FROM THE SEA by Anne Morrow Lindbergh…..pulled right from the sixties. Before I wrote THIS EULOGY I re-read Lindbergs book. It influenced Kate and it influenced my thoughts for today.
It has been a long hard 13 month journey for the Sullivan clan. I know I speak for my siblings and nieces and nephews and her friends . It was a pleasure and an honor
to give back just a little of what you, KATE, have given to the world. We’d do it again.
This is not the end, dear sister, but a new beginning, time for you to find new beaches to walk, new shells to find and beautiful sunsets TO SOOTHE YOU.
KATE SULLivan: An impossible but beautiful act to follow….