“Standing at the pulpit, looking down at the tiny handheld device, that blackberry screen looked like a postage stamp and the letters of Meg’s words looked like scrimshaw scratches on a 200-year-old tusk.”
It’s not easy to read a eulogy from a blackberry, but I did it when I had to do it. Recently, my younger sister Kathy Fulton died and then her daughter’s family held a beautiful service at Saint Anthony’s church in Falmouth, Massachusetts. (Thank you, Freitas Family!). Our cousin, Meg Schwemmer, had a long friendship with Kathy, but was unable to attend the services, due to her work at the college where she is employed. So Meg wrote a letter to represent her feelings.
Her letter was heartfelt and well written. Kathy’s daughter decided to have it read at the service. Unfortunately, I didn’t really “get it” that I would be the one to read it, so I had given away my printed copies of the letter to friends and relatives at the wake. I arrived at the church to discover that I was to read the letter that I no longer had in my possession.
The only tool available was my Blackberry. I moved to google’s gmail app. I found the email with the letter attached. I launched the attachment. There was the letter staring up at me from the tiny window. When called, I walked to the pulpit, breaking all the protocols by neglecting to genuflect in front of the twice life-size painting of Our Lady of Fatima. I thought to myself, “If god actually exists, this church will tumble and fall down upon us all, because a non-theist is standing here on his home turf!” Oh well, both the church and I are standing today – for whatever that’s worth.
Standing at the pulpit, looking down at the tiny handheld device, that blackberry screen looked like a postage stamp and the letters of Meg’s words looked like scrimshaw scratches on a 200 year old tusk. Why couldn’t I have a mail-enabled kindle-sized screen!?!
Luckily I had read it over several times, so I just did the best I could. At one point, a tear fell on the screen and I had to brush it away with the edge of my shirtsleeve to continue. This proves that it’s possible to read a eulogy from a blackberry, although it’s difficult, not kidding about that. May you never have to utter a sentence that contains both of these words: blackberry and eulogy.
Here is the text of Meg’s letter:
December 8, 2009
Although I can’t be there with all of you today, I hope you’ll allow me to share a few thoughts about my dear cousin, friend, and near-sister Kathie. Qualities that drew me into Kathie’s World were her sense of humor and ironic view of life. I grew up knowing that type of humor in my Mother. Also, Kathie had a funny way of combining cynicism and romanticism. Her inner adolescent was never far from the surface. How could I not be totally disarmed by someone who believed that the only reason she and Steven Tyler weren’t close friends – or maybe more than close – was that they hadn’t yet met in a grocery store or restaurant? She always seemed to believe that winning the lottery was only a day away – and you know that she would have shared every last dime with all of you! She took the greatest pleasure in being generous when she could be. Even when she had a dreadful day, full of pain, she never failed to ask, “And how are you, Dear?”
Like many good Irish-folk, Kathie could nurse a grudge, but she also savored and celebrated every kindness. I think Kathie often looked at the world as an outsider. It seemed like a lot of the movies she recommended to me over the years were about people who didn’t fit in but triumphed and found happiness in the end. One was “Shallow Hal”, which she told me about in great detail. Just this Thanksgiving she gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” with Don Knotts. I thought it was going to be corny, but I watched it anyway. She was right, it was quite touching.
As recently as two weeks ago, Kathie was unwilling to think in terms of her condition being permanent, much less terminal. The miracle of getting better was elusive, but it was right around the bend. That particular miracle was not to be. And yet there are miracles all around us. The fact that our planet, of all the planets in the universe, holds life in such abundance and amazing variety is a miracle. The fact that we have an inborn capacity to know and share love is a miracle. All that is fine in our world comes from love. I don’t mean romantic love; I mean the roll up your sleeves and get messy love. The kind that involves caring and listening and understanding and reaching out and overlooking foolishness, crankiness, and human weakness. The kind that shares the laughter and the tears as well. Maybe the miracle isn’t saving the earthly life of our friend Kathie. Maybe the miracle is family and friends around her bedside, and bringing everyone together at a time when the need for love and understanding is so very evident. Miracles happen every day when we are sharing our love with all the people and causes in our lives. I know for certain that she felt Tenaya and Michael’s little Hannah is a miracle. Kathie fought hard to be here long enough to get to hold her Granddaughter!
We are surely going to miss her! While my hands were usually doing some task or other while we were talking – she often teased me about that – my mind needed those frequent visits to Kathie’s World. Somehow, even when she was needy, she gave more than she took because she was so grateful, always.
I love each of you for all the ways you showed Kathie love during her life. You all enriched her time on earth in countless special ways. I celebrate that I had Kathie in my life, and I wish I could be there to witness the love that you are showing one another today because she loved you and you loved her. I know you’ll be okay because you have each other and that common bond. God bless you all!
It’s ironic that I would be called on to read that letter, because I was the most distant of brothers for the last 10 year or so. When I realized that she was losing the battle to metabolic syndrome, which would lead her inevitably to diabetes, we had a falling out. I tried to point out to her that constant drinking of soda pop would kill her. She disregarded my words. I told her that change could be difficult, but the taste of change was sweet. She declined. My heart went cold; I knew it was only a matter of time between that moment and her death. I specifically asserted that diabetes was preventable. The gulf between us was a wide as the solar system.
All I can say to you is, please, please, drink water and balance your food intake. I’m tired of watching my relatives die of adult onset diabetes. And the devil’s dance continues even now. My cousins and my niece are still drinking soda today. There’s plenty of evidence that metabolic syndrome usually precedes diabetes. Sadly, it seems not to matter what I say. Maybe by chance some reader will stumble upon this blog entry and will benefit from the information.
thanks for reading.