This past Saturday, I attended my sister Laura's memorial at her and her husband Randy's home in Cutchogue, Long Island. It was an overcast day and almost immediately after the service came the rain. Nevertheless, it was a moving, enlightening and even joyous time, as we listened to Laura's children - Sophie, Charlie and Chris - detail some of their favorite memories of their mother. In addition to his speech, Charlie created a beautiful and moving video presentation which was shown toward the end of the service. I read a poem that is dear to me and so fitting, while others were asked to come to the microphone, if they so desired, to share their own memories of my sweet sister. On my blog today, I'd like to share my favorite excerpts from Sophie's very profound and moving speech. I would also like to share with you the poem that I read as well as some photos of family and friends who attended, some of whom I have not seen in a long time.
These are my favorite parts of Sophie's remembrance:
As I’ve come to learn, there are 3 things we can count on in life:
The first is uncertainty. While we can plan and anticipate, life so often takes an unexpected course. It’s with time, effort, and experience that we become more flexible and resilient. We even learn how to appreciate and grow from the unforeseeable twists and turns.
The second thing we can count on is impermanence. It’s not that physical matter vanishes. Instead its form shifts and changes with time, life, and mystery. It’s recycled and reincarnated. It’s through the acceptance of all that is fleeting that we learn gratitude and appreciation.
And, finally there’s LOVE, perhaps the most infinite, transcending, and supportive force of all.
We find ourselves here today, honoring and celebrating the profound love my Mother shared with the world. As one of her children, who benefited and was nourished every day by her unconditional love, I can only hope my words convey an ounce of what she blessed us with. You see, my mother gave us more than we ever could have expected or asked for in life. She gave us life and would do anything to protect our wellbeing.
My Mother was also one of the most honest, courageous, strong, and just real individuals I have ever met. She understood so deeply the complexity of life. And, though she experienced some very significant loss over the years, she lived every day to its fullest and with a pretty amazing sense of humor, too. She brought us up to acknowledge the beauty that exists in this rich tapestry of our existence. She guided us to recognize that it’s the darker hues that add dimension and help us better appreciate the lighter plains and colorful stretches. I can assure you that I’ve found great comfort over the past few weeks by looking at the overall picture.
There are so many things about my Mother that I’d like to celebrate and honor today. One is my Mother’s curious and giving spirit.
She raised us to believe in our ability to be creative, curious, independent, and resourceful. She taught us the importance of not settling too soon and trying again when we falter or fail. She and my father taught us how important it is to ask questions and gather more information before jumping to conclusions or forming judgments – essentially to stay curious and open minded. She also invited us to freely develop our spiritual identity. This meant a great deal to me, especially as I lost my father Kim when I was just 1 ½ years old and had many questions about the cycle of existence.
You see, what my Mother wanted most for her children was for us to form our own identities and live confidently and creatively in the world. And, whenever we’ve doubted ourselves or our paths, we knew that she was right there to support us and help us find our footing once more. She also lovingly challenged us to be our best - not in a perfectionist way, but in way that honored our truth and authenticity.
She then spoke of what she misses more than anything: the exceptional relationship they shared every day.
We spoke each morning and sometimes more, especially if I needed help cooking. I often called my Mom my walking culinary encyclopedia. Sometimes to her annoyance, I’d call her even if I could have found the answer on my own. I just loved hearing her voice and benefiting from her guidance. Most of all, my Mother was one of the greatest guides and lights in my life about everything.
So, here we are today. I’m honored for your gracious presence as we celebrate and remember this woman who was an enormous force in my life. It shocks me when I think that I am the same age my mother was when she was widowed and with two very young children. I’m in awe when I think of her strength and her desire to persevere and provide for us as best as she possibly could – to make the world as light and full as possible. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that she found the courage to move on and fall in love with the incredible man who has been my committed father for nearly 25 years. Their marriage and the love they shared and continue to share in spirit form will always be such a model for me, especially as I’m now a wife to my dear Dan. We’re at the point where family is in the nearer future. I’ll be honest, it is and will continue to be a daily challenge to readjust my understanding of what can and can no longer be. I feel so blessed to have my amazing and loving mother-in-law Nancy to soften some of that pain and discomfort. I trust with every cell of my body, however, that while the children we one day will have won’t know my Mother in flesh form, they will most certainly know her, for she lives on in me. She lives on in my brothers, in my father, in Dan and Tim. Her memory is carried on in our family and friends. And, I can only hope that I will be able to offer my family as much as my mother gave me.
May we all trust that our sorrow only informs and deepens our joy. That the pain we feel now is carving out more space for us to contain what is light and full. This is part of the overall picture. Thank you.
The poem that I read is very dear to me and so fitting. It was written by the famous anthropologist and writer, Margaret Mead and is entitled "Remember Me"
To the living, I am gone.
To the sorrowful, I will never return.
To the angry, I was cheated,
But to the happy, I am at peace,
And to the faithful, I have never left.
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea - remember me.
As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty - remember me.
As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity - remember me.
Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, your memories of the times we loved,
the times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed.
For if you always think of me, I will never be gone.
Thank you for reading.
1 My cousin, Helene Kostyra who lives in Florida and my brother, Eric Scott who lives in Buffalo, New York. I took this photo of them right before the service.
2 My sister, Kathy Evans and my sister-in-law, Rita Christiansen.
3 My youngest brother, George Christiansen.
4 Dot Byrne, who officiated Tim and Chris' wedding, also led the memorial service in a most graceful way.
5 Laura's daughter, Sophie Herbert Slater, gave a beautiful and moving remembrance of her mother.
6 Tim Long, Laura's son-in-law, proudly wearing and speaking about the "Native American ribbon shirt" that Laura made for him.
7 Laura's son, Chris Herbert, speaking eloquently about his wonderful memories of his mother.
8 One of Laura's best friends, Jim Klinko.
9 Another one of Laura's dear friends, Tori Masters.
10 Laura and Randy's Long Island neighbor, Joe McKay, who had beautiful memories and spoke of Laura's great generousity and hospitality.
11 Red Bee Honey owner and beekeeper, Marina Marchese found her birth father through The Martha Blog and gave her experience of how Laura was responsible for facilitating their meeting.
12 Tim Long's mother, Stella Long, in her native dress which she made for the occasion. She is a recognized elder of the Chocktaw tribe in Oklahoma. She gave the final blessing to the assembled friends and family.
13 A closeup view of Stella's beautiful beadwork and intricate needlework.
14 A wonderful photo of Laura's husband Randy and their 3 beautiful children, Sophie, Chris and Charlie.
15 Many of Sophie's good friends attended in support, including her dear friend and former MSLO employee, Frances Boswell.
16 Carlos Villamil and my three dogs - GK, Francesca and Sharkie - enjoyed the reception after the service.
17 A nice photo of me and Laura's husband, Randy Plimpton. Randy held the service at he and Laura's Cutchogue, Long Island home. The beautiful home was built by the Plimptons in 1925.
18 A lovely view from the back yard, overlooking the Peconic Bay - so serene and beautiful.
19 During the service, Randy talked about his sweet Laura and the wonderful 24 year relationship they shared. He spoke about when they met and their wedding on July 28, 1990, and I recalled attending the wedding right there at their Cutchogue home.
20 A nice photo of me and my brothers George, on the left, and Eric and my sister Kathy. My other brother Frank was missing.
21 Laura Kostyra Plimpton
March 4, 1955 - August 6, 2014