Words. They can excite, subdue, anger, lift, make you laugh, make you cry. They also escape me from time to time, usually when I need them the most.
We have lost our sister-in-law. In the wee hours of a January morning, she, and my husband's brother, awoke to the sound of smoke alarms. They left the house, dogs in tow, making their way out. In the business of trying to get things done to save his family, my brother-in-law did not notice that his wife had inexplicably run back into the house to find the cats. In the flash of realizing she was gone, trying to go back to find her, he found he could not. The heat, smoke and flames were too much for him. She was gone.
I did not know my sister-in-law very well. Over the course of the past twenty years, we only saw each other a few times a year at family gatherings. It wasn't the distance of miles that got in the way, it was, as we used to say, the distance of life.
What I do know about her is this; she was a fiercely passionate and compassionate woman. She championed the cause of the lowly and down-trodden and she was incredibly charitable. She could talk for hours about the injustices done towards the lowliest of creatures- specifically, dogs and cats that had been abandoned. She rescued many, giving them a life that was filled with love and respect. The blind, deaf and manic-depressive cats, her two dogs, knew no better existence, I am sure. Her little dog perished with her, having followed her back inside. That her last act was to run to the aid of those that could not help themselves is of no surprise to me. It was who she was.
She was an artist who had the ability of taking the most humble of objects and elevating them into things of beauty. Some of her artwork hangs in galleries here in Atlanta. I hope that my brother-in-law will go view them and bring home the one that speaks to him the loudest. He has nothing left. Only the pages of her website and a few copied photographs gathered from family photo albums. It will never be enough.
She was bright and beautiful with a smile that lit the room. She had a wickedly funny sense of humor and I will miss her asides at the Christmas dinner table that would bring my hand to my mouth to stifle my laughter. I am grateful to her for taking time to speak to me, not over me, when we were together. With her, you mattered.
She had a zest for life that transformed those that met her. A little ball of energy despite the physical ailments that plagued her. "Just do it!" should have been her motto.
There is a comfort that comes of knowing that she is safe and renewed. That she has felt the deep and abiding love of her Heavenly Father, been enveloped in the embrace of her elder brother, Jesus Christ and that, while we here are overwhelmed with sorrow at her loss, her family members were there to greet her with overwhelming joy at her return to them.
Maybe I have words after all.