For my extended family, this has been a very trying time. Two weeks ago my irrepressible, ebullient and exquisite step-niece died suddenly from as-yet unknown causes. She was 27.
Over the weekend, my step-brother, my former sister-in-law (I use the term “former” for the sake of exactitude because she very much remains a part of our family), my nephew and my niece’s fiancé led a tribute to Kate at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.
The memorial service opened with a loving, honest anecdotal eulogy from my brother and closed with the tossing of flowers into the Boston Harbor. The women in attendance were given a tube of rich red lipstick, a favorite of Kate’s, who was a talented makeup artist.
We became a family more than 27 years ago with the union of my mother and their father, both widowed at the time. Between them they had five children, and 10 grandchildren, Kate being the third from the youngest. Despite everyone spread throughout the United States and one overseas, we have come together often, usually for happy occasions like milestone birthdays, weddings, b’nai mitzvahs and the occasional Thanksgiving.
Amazingly, our parents are both in their late eighties, and as a family we haven’t faced a tragic event in more than 20 years. And now this.
As Kate’s parents would want, we remember this young woman, not with sadness, but rather for the joy she brought to life. We picture her at every family event – most recently at two weddings – acting as the social coordinator, dragging her cousins onto the dance floor and moving spiritedly to the music. Her smile and energy filled a space the way helium expands a balloon. And so Kate lifted our spirits.
No life should end as young as this one. And no parents and sibling should feel such pain. As family and friends we can do little but validate their loss, love them with all of our hearts, and remember their Kate in all her vibrancy.
That, and rock her red lipstick.