One year ago, my sister, Laura, passed way. Such a sad time that was, so much hurt and heartache at the loss of a uniquely wonderful person.
Trying to process it all that weekend, I wrote Saying Goodbye to a Sister. I included a link to a memorial fund, as her medical expenses had grown quite large.
And that's when the Internet gave me one of life's great gifts, the gift of slowly coloring the edges of a dark and painful experience with goodness and warmth. More and more, when I look back, I think of those things, good deeds in a weary world.
I'm grateful for people like Om and Semil, so genuine in their concern and offers of help. Someone posted a link to the post on Hacker News of all places, and next thing I knew, strangers were donating to the memorial fund. Friends gave beyond their means.
Daniel wrote "I'm placing Laura under People I'm Sad I Never Got The Pleasure of Knowing," and others sent similar thoughts. She would've enjoyed their company and stories greatly. I wish I had shared her more in the present tense.
Then there is Anna, Nicki, and Clare, who in inexplicable ways, played the part of comforting sisters from great distance, with their care and thoughtful, encouraging words delivered at just the right moments.
I was reminded that week of the immense power of the Internet to knit people together from far off locations and divergent perspectives. It's easy to forget that; I don't think I will again. That potential, always there, but sometimes hard to find amidst the noise, is part of the inspiration for the Uncommon community.
I delivered a eulogy at Laura's memorial service. It was largely based on the essay, but I added a coda that I've been thinking about as the anniversary approached.
We can learn from those that leave us early. I feel like we have to. Laura's life was a constant reminder that there is another way to be.
The first reminder is this: Be present
Laura loved to spend time with people. She was never in a hurry to leave the table. She didn't want moments with friends and loved ones to end.
The second is: Be kind
Laura loved everyone. She saw and respected each person's value. She never judged others and couldn't understand people who did. It broke her heart when people weren't respectful of those who saw things differently.
The third is: Be who you are
In a world that tells us that nothing is enough, that we should never be satisfied with ourselves or our life, Laura found peace and happiness in who she was. Laura had dreams and she had regrets, but she also knew that she was, at that moment, who and where she should be.
And the final reminder is this: Be willing
When I think of my sister, she was, above all else, willing. Willing to try anything and go anywhere. Willing to love and willing to hurt. She was willing to change all of her plans at a moment's notice and willing to be there for you no matter what. She was willing to be lost and willing to be found.
One of my favorites parts of the past year has been seeing Laura's spirit and example, her kindness, presence, and willingness, where I might have missed it before. I saw it as Lisa left the states for an adventure in Berlin and when Radhika said yes to an invitation to travel from London to Austin to perform. I see it in Allison's joy in life, Erin's poetry and non-profit work for young women, and Wesley's genuine love for people, conversation, and exploring new cities. And I see it now in my wife's upcoming trip to Bangladesh and my son's college choices, the closest of which is 1,600 miles away.
My great joy has been watching four friends who each live to travel, which my sister loved more than anything. People travel for a variety of reasons, but there's a kind of travel that feeds your soul; travel that you're incomplete without. I see that in the very different adventures Lora, Jennifer, Keegan, and Cassie have embarked on around the globe. I'm inspired by the possibility they see around every corner and their taste for the unknown. My sister's life was defined by her six-month trip around the world with a girlfriend, and each update from Cassie's current journey with her own friend makes me smile.
In the end, I'm thankful for friends. Thanks to everyone, so many I haven't mentioned here, for your kindness. I only hope to live up to your examples when given the opportunity.