I feel so... Yesterday, we laid to rest( or something, she was not so big on rest, really) my younger cousin, Rebecca Serkey. There was quite a lot of fuss about it, and I seemed to be among the very few family members( & non-work friends) entirely unsurprised by the amount of activity & attention; I’d always had an impression of a great deal of fraternity amongst first responders, & known her to charm the masses with her bluntness & understated good looks–I was among those who taught her to deal with people, after all. At one point, the driver my uncle hired for the event found me standing aside, the only one not looking desperately sad, & asked, “Just who is this person in your family that died?” with a note of awe in his voice; he’d initially thought the legions of uniformed officers might be for a recently-slain state trooper whose funeral could have preceded hers.
Her peers & colleagues came from all over the country. There was a helicopter flyby with a call that went out on the radio, calling for the last time for her to come in.( Someone who had worked on the planning said with embarrassment that they wanted to have 3 choppers for her but were stymied by the short notice, as we weren’t sure when NTSB would release the remains, but her mother’s Jewish tradition demanded we inter them immediately.) The massive police escort closed off roads for the funeral procession to pass unhindered, including the George Washington Bridge & an expanse of the Long Island Expressway( crossing NYC without facing traffic was a little surreal, even to me) to her final resting place( under the circumstances, perhaps it’s best that her body was incinerated in the explosion; I’m not sure her body would have been permitted burial in a Jewish cemetary had it been examined intact). Color guards from many cities including Boston honored her, and her mother was presented with an American flag & the thanks of a grateful nation.
At the burial site, I spoke, told them: alis volat propriis( that’s a link to my remarks), and was relieved to feel I had done right by her, lived up to her example in giving what I could for those she loved.
When I went to clean up & post my final draft of those remarks to my blog this morning, I began crying and I have hardly stopped, but it is not a miserable sadness. I wondered why *now*, after feeling, well, nothing but a desire to take care of others upon getting the news, satisfaction at the proceedings as she was memorialized... I think I have identified 2 reasons:
1) Having seen who she was to the world, I had to explore & explain who she was to me, & who I felt I was to her; in order to know what existed, so as to discover what was lost & what can never be gone. This is as much about me as about her, & would thus not have been a point she nor I would consider appropriate to harp on at the funeral.
2) I had to be past the point of delivering that remembrance to her mother, father, or the friends who grew up with her essentially as sisters; before saying that(, whatever she might have thought of me), in my mind, my heart, she was very much a brother( yes :-p) & a daughter to me.
So having said that stuff at the burial for the mourners, I’ll add the following for me:
With my special gift & our strange bond(/strange gift & special bond?), I got to see, every step of the way, not just who she was but who she tried to be; in any moment encountering her, I saw what emotions drove her forward or held her back. The girl who always smiled never could & thus never had to hide from me her unhappiness or longing–she didn’t ever have to spare me details either, & she never doubted that if she chose to share them(, or if I should figure them out), I got it completely.( Admittedly, she was not always thrilled with the idea.)
She thus came to understand( & occasionally complain), long before anyone else did, that I am damn stubborn & proud of it; there is precious little point in attempting to deceive me, silence me, or change my mind without changing my perspective(–even for my own or good or someone else’s). She trusted that I knew what I was doing when I said so, & just as importantly, she came to trust that if I said I didn’t know what I was doing she’d better handle it unless she was content to waste a lot of time.( Ha! I’m kidding, she would never be... really, I think when I started not knowing it was a relief for her, but she never rubbed my nose in it.)
From our earliest days, I complimented her on her own stubbornness( rarely even dressing it up as resolve) & she pushed it beyond mine, to its very limits. I have been so very proud of her–& so very worried. I saw her make mistakes, many of which I made & am only learning now to fix, but for all her stubbornness grew alarmingly greater, I’d forgotten her speed did too. She found freedom faster, & in finding wisdom she accepted truth in the relative blink of an eye. I am so very relieved.
So I know why I have smiled, why I have cried, & why now I’m doing both: my feelings are parental, are fraternal, are friendly, are rivalrous, are grateful for her admiration & admiring of her in all ways. Not long ago, I lost someone I had not thought of as close to me, & the evidence, that there was more than expected to what I had with him, has left me reeling. Now I lose someone whom I have never doubted was close to me, & I haven’t needed any evidence thereof to stay solid.
I can’t cry for the loss of her, or for anything she’s lost from me, because we know we gave each other everything we needed, & who that ever loved could ever ask for more? So I smile. I cry only to think that the world around us isn’t all that way, & she must’ve had more pressing business than to heal it... but I can no longer watch after her. I can only say: “Good luck, kiddo. I’m rooting for you.”.
[To comment, for now at least, click over to this post on the main D.R.T.Y. blog. Sorry about that!]