Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In Memorial

A celebration of life was held for my cousin Brian this weekend.  How often do you attend a wake or a memorial service or funeral and find yourselves amongst friends and family talking of everything except the person who has passed?  This was not like that time.  Because Hubby and I arrived on Friday night, we spent a lot of time talking to Brian's sister and mother and learning about how things had been for Brian at the end.  Then on Saturday, talk turned to good memories as we went through family albums to find the pictures, newspaper articles, awards, and other items that could be displayed at the memorial.

We joked that Brian was the most famous of all of us - he had numerous articles in the paper about his athletics when he participated in special olympics and won the gold medal for track - posting a mile in under 7 minutes.  And not only was he a sprinter, he also ran a marathon.  We then shared a story of how he was once dropped off at a wrong bus-stop and had to walk home by himself.  His disability, which hindered him thinking about calling or asking for help, luckily allowed him to use his extreme memory and mapping capabilities to figure out the way home.  We laughed when we recalled that he was nearly home (no one even knowing that he had been walking back for 3 hours) when my father passed him on the road.  They both waved to one another and went on their way.  It wasn't until my father got home and related the story to my mother that he realized Brian shouldn't have been out walking on his own outside his neighborhood. 

We talked about how he had seemed to be a healthy "normal" baby until he started to get to his 2nd year and didn't have the language or motor skills development that they expected and this was when he was first tested for hearing loss and other disabilities.  We talked about how the psychiatrists had his diagnosis and meds wrong over the years and how remarkable his growth over the last 10 years have been once it was corrected.  We talked about challenges and triumphs, silliness and serious moments, we talked about it all and it was the most wonderful sharing experience.

On Sunday, we gathered at a nearby resort with views of the lake and the mountains and with so many friends and family to continue to remember him.  His sister was brave and eloquent talking of their childhood and about the wonderful things she learned from being the sibling of a developmentally disabled person.  A family friend also shared her 30 years of memories of Brian that was so heartfelt and touching.  I shared my own thoughts as did others.  I was so glad I was able to be there to be a part of it. 

The moment that still astonishes me, however, was the moment that a fellow resident of his group home stood in front of the 50-60 of us in attendance to read the poem she wrote on behalf of Brian for the family.  With her permission, I present it here.

I'm Looking Down on You All

I went the other day
As peaceful as can be
With my family and friends
Gathered around me.

I no longer will wake each morning
I no longer will sleep at night
I tried to win a battle
I no longer have to fight.

I was a very good person
Each day I tried to give
So do not shed a tear
Just celebrate how I lived.

Remember through the good, and the bad
In the sun and in the rain
No matter how hard life was
I stayed in the game.

How I died, and what I had
I do not wish to tell
But I am up in heaven
And all is good and well.

Keep me in mind, keep me in thought
And you will soon see
Keep me in heart, and let me rest
And do not dwell on me.

So family and friends
Do not cry, for I am not alone
My father came, as soon as I went
To bring me, peacefully home.

Once again, the gift this young woman gave our family astonished me and I was reminded of those same sage words. 

Different.  Not Less.


AmyBow said...

just amazing. and beautiful. wow.

JeannetteLS said...

would that all of us could have a life that well-lived and well-treasured by all who knew him. Beautiful poetry.

I'm sorry for your loss of his living presence. Take care.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Your family sounds just lovely.

What a wonderful tribute.

Michelle said...

I am sorry for your loss...he surely left his mark