I just decided that there is no need for me to ever buy lottery tickets, because I’m pretty sure there’s no chance of hitting the jackpot more than once. And I’ve already won it. But my jackpot isn’t a big bag of money, it’s my family. I have amazing parents. I also have amazing sisters, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends we’ve adopted as family. There are a lot of us, and last weekend, as we all gathered in Austin, Texas to honor and celebrate the life of my sister Maureen, it became even more evident just how incredible my family is, and how lucky I’ve been and am.
My older sister passed away on Tuesday, October 21st, and we all scrambled to get ourselves to Austin as quickly as possible. By Friday everyone had arrived, a large house where everyone could stay had been rented, and for three days twenty-five or so of us texted, planned, organized, drove, shuttled, shopped, congregated, paid our respects, eulogized, prayed, sang, ate, drank, cried, laughed, and laughed, all because we loved Maureen, and the life we shared with her, so much.
The night before I flew out my younger sister texted me and asked me if I’d like to say something at the service on Saturday. I nervously replied “yes” knowing I would regret it if I didn’t, but also worried that I might get up there and start blubbering, then throw up in a heap of tears and snot. Oh well, I figured, if that happens then it happens, and it would certainly be a memorial service people remembered.
Luckily at the service, when it was my turn to speak, I wasn’t nervous at all. Instead I felt a calm and quiet strength that I’m pretty sure was a gift from Maureen. I got up in front of that church packed with a few hundred people, said my words, even got a few laughs, and then sat back down with my family. And it felt good.
I was the first to speak, followed by friends and family who said such beautiful things about my sister. One friend said that Maureen told her that even though her family lived far away, and she didn’t get to see them nearly enough, that you have to love where your feet are. As soon as she said it I realized how big that statement was, and that those would be words I’d hold onto.
Love where your feet are.
All I have to do is look down at my feet to remember them, those five simple words, that for me are loaded with meaning. Those words will remind me that wherever my feet are planted, and in every moment, I need to approach things with love. They are also going to remind me that I need to make the effort to put my feet in the places that mean the most to me and near the people I care most about, friends and family near and far. That as I move forward with my life, trying to accomplish the many things I want to, that I need to keep my feet firmly planted in the realities of each day, as I move towards fulfilling my dreams and aspirations.
My sister Maureen had breast cancer for eleven years, and I lived in hope/denial that we wouldn’t lose her so soon. But I take solace in knowing that her struggle has ended. Her pain is gone. I think about how incredibly strong and brave she was to hold on for so long and to endure so much. But in her passing, I believe that she has released that strength and bravery, fueled by love, and passed it onto us; to draw upon as we move forward, helping each other through this, moving ahead with our lives and dreams, while remembering to always love where our feet are.