Loss and laughter
Red Card Roberts
November 22, 2016
One of the most difficult parts of grief is re-entry. My world came to a stop a few weeks ago, but for everyone else, it kept turning. Now I have to get back on, and it feels a bit like trying to jump onto a fast-moving train.
Saying goodbye to my sister, Heather, pained my heart in a way words could never do justice. She passed away two weeks ago, after a nearly nine-year battle with brain cancer.
During that time she lost her hair, her mobility, one fiancé, her figure due to steroids, a job, some of her memory, motor skills and her independence. But there are two things cancer could not take from her: hope and humor.
Heather had a way of making people laugh at the most inappropriate things at the most inappropriate times. It wasn't uncommon for her to blurt out something so witty, yet tactless. You felt the need to glance over your shoulder before joining her in laughter. Even with only hours of life left in her, Heather managed to turn our grief into a grin.
You beat the odds, time after time. Handling every setback with humility, comedy, and yes, a little wine.
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When she became more and more nauseous in her final days, my father would rush to hold a blue plastic vomit bag firmly to her mouth. Heather was too weak to hold it herself, but not too weak to crack a joke. "Dad, I think I'd rather die from brain cancer than suffocation. Don't press it so tight,” she told him.
As we watched CNN in her hospital room, Heather shook her head at the election coverage and said, "I'd rather die than have Donald Trump as president. So if nothing else, I guess this is good timing." It's not lost on me that she passed on the evening of Nov. 8, Election Day.
After her oncologist told us the tumors had multiplied and grown significantly since her last MRI, Heather asked, "Do you think we did this scan too soon? Maybe we didn't give the trials enough time to work." Even in her final hours, she never stopped believing in a miracle.
When my mom asked me to consider speaking at Heather's funeral, it was both the greatest honor of my life, and also the most heartbreaking thing I have ever done. I knew I could never truly explain her optimism, her fight and her wit with words. But eulogies aren't meant to be pantomimed. So, knowing words were all I could use, here's what I shared:
To my sister Heather, I don't want to say goodbye.
And so I won't, because you will never really die.
You'll live on through the memories and your unabashed hope.
You'll live on with your love, your perseverance and your remarkable ability to cope.
Every day I will think of you, and be inspired by your life.
You taught us to always find something funny, amidst all the strife.
You battled cancer with your brilliant smile, despite all its unfair blows.
You went to war with your disease; laughter and faith the weapons you chose.
You beat the odds, time after time.
Handling every setback with humility, comedy, and yes, a little wine.
You taught us all about bravery, strength and humor,
Who else would so inappropriately name her tumor?
You refused pity and pessimism, never letting them linger.
Instead, you looked at cancer and gave it the middle finger.
You may have been dealt an unfair hand,
But you played every card like a true champion.
I'm in awe of your spunk, your courage and your will to fight.
With every challenge, you found the side that was bright.
You were full of life, and grit and sass.
I'm so proud of the way you chose to kick cancer's ass.
While there is a deep hole our hearts, only your body is gone.
Your resilience, beauty and spirit will always live on.
So when we feel anger and sadness, and are looking for an answer,
We'll remember what you would say; you'd tell us, "F*** cancer."
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.