Monday, August 08, 2005

Elizabeth Kerr

Five years ago on this day my sister died from a malignant cancer that spread amazingly rapidly.

Luckily, I was able to spend some time with her just before her death. Afterwards I wrote a reflection in 11 parts. For the first time I'm publishing a small part of this reflection here.

The death notice we inserted in the paper read as follows:
Generous in word and deed
Always unselfish
In love with life
Open and curious
Strong willed
True to your own self
We miss you.
We organised all the essential details of the funeral ourselves, the music was selected by her best friend C. with help from cousin S., the flowers for the coffin were organised by her gardening friends G. and R., the celebrant was another friend, J. All of the speakers were family or friends. We selected the cheapest coffin available.

The family produces a memorial card, this is a joint effort, with A. helping with the poem from William Blake:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour
Elizabeth wore unusually strong colours. M. picks out a cardigan for the background colour of the memorial card and I take it down to the printers for them to copy.

At the funeral I say:
Elizabeth died well, she died very well. She was still giving advice on book prices for her business right up to the end, from her sick bed. She knew she was dying but didn't see the point of lingering, she rejected the offer of chemotherapy. There was no false hope, no sign of fear, no self pity, no tears for herself, just tears from everyone else. She even apologised to her friends for being so sick and having to leave them.

I feel proud to have such a courageous sister who had helped to show me how to live and how to die.
It was a good send off, with the right mix of humour and sadness ...

The funeral parlour charged us $5, 500. Cousin S. and I vow to organise our own funerals to protect our families from the rip off merchants of death ...

When a loved one dies we grieve, we regret the bad times, we cherish the closeness, we learn to empathise with others when they suffer such a loss. We become part of a common humanity.

What have I learnt from Elizabeth's death? To treasure friends, to be true to my own values, to be generous, don't let the petty things in life hold you back. Death is nothing to fear, just live your life to the full. M. has the final word, to live each day as though it were Christmas Day.

Dr. Elizabeth Ann Kerr: 9th February 1944 - 8th August 2000


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