Now we are (still) ten...

From February, 2009

The first of us siblings died this week.
For years we wondered who would go first, what the order would be. Would we drop off chronologically, according to age? We have the answer now and it's no. So what does determine the order? The least liked to the most liked? Who would determine where each of us belongs on that scale? Would we go according to how interesting our lives have been, who has made the most important contribution to the world? Who has the biggest house, the most expensive car? Would we go by who can afford to live longest, first being the one who could least afford to linger? Considering who died first, that could be the order. But is it fair? Should the most successful automatically go last? By what are we defining success, in this case? What about those with the longest lasting marriages? Should their stick-to-it-iveness be rewarded with a life longer than those who divorced young, as she did?
And how to die: a painful last illness? Cancer? A general breakdown in the systems, as she did? Or easily, in our sleep, like our mother? Or, unexpectedly - a car accident, slipping on the ice and banging a head, a bear attack; or murder, as in the case of our poor niece.
And then what? What kind of hole will there be? A negligible one, just a snag, really, in the family cloth, or the kind of crater that creates a new landscape the way rutted paths influence the direction of water flow.
What about the funeral? A tradition has begun. Her children opted for an open casket, wake, funeral, the now-standard video tribute. But does this mean we need to follow the tradition? Do we really want to see each other's remains? Do we want to subject related-by-marriage mourners and friends near and distant to the sight of our dessicated corpses, dessicated because embalming fluid is not life blood but only creates the illusion that the shell in the satin lined casket is one of us sleeping? Turnout will be a factor, of course. In a family where numbers have always counted, where the success of an event has depended on how many of the eleven of us showed up, there will be one less next time. So who would want to be last? That which may seem like a reward could be punishment. The first to go drew the most mourners, and what is that in this large family if not success?
RIP Donna.

Still ten...

Just over a year passed and it was likely we would lose another sister, the oldest. In her case death has been a dance partner, swinging her out, swinging her back into to his cold arms. This time death had almost smothered her when the music changed and she swung back out again, skinny but strong, back on her own two feet.
Continued long life, Beverly.