In loving memory of my sister Lauren
I lost my sister 10 days ago (4/8) after her long battle with cancer. Here’s the eulogy I wrote for her and delivered on 4/9. I’m not really sure why I’m sharing this. I suppose it just feels better to put things out there than to keep them in.
A eulogy is a lot like an Oscar acceptance speech. You tend to write one before you know for sure you’ll deliver it. Which is pretty presumptive. Almost arrogant.
There are some differences of course. The red carpet after a eulogy sucks in comparison. And you’re a whole lot less likely to go home with a supermodel.
Still, I’ll be pretty pissed if I don’t get a cool statue today. And the next time I look in the mirror I damn well better see something that looks like Brad Pitt.
The comparison runs much deeper though than my stunning good looks.
Whatever the Oscars are about, has already happened by the time the people show up in their fancy clothes. The movies have been made. They’ve earned the acclaim of fans and critics. The Academy has already voted. It’s over. The Oscars are a moment to acknowledge, accept, and celebrate what’s already happened. To transform private thoughts and feelings into cultural artifacts. To create a shared experience. Because only through shared experiences do we create meaning together.
My sister hates these kinds of events. If she weren’t the guest of honor today, she’d be sitting with me and we’d be cracking jokes. Not out of apathy. But just because neither of us thought much of the phoniness of so many rituals.
Lauren doesn’t have a lot of patience for nonsense. She isn’t impressed by phony gestures. That was always true. It became even more true after she was diagnosed with cancer. She saw the difference between the people who were into the show of friendship, and people like her friend Abby who were just friends.
Here’s a recent text exchange I had with Lauren:
Me: Just wanted to say hi and find out how you were
Lauren: Hi. Feel shitty. All the time. Just dozed off.
Me: Well I have literally zero useful things to say. Hope you feel better though.
Lauren: I wish everyone would say that instead of spewing stupidity. Thanks.
I think Lauren would want to be remembered with a speech that starts off with Brad Pitt and supermodels. Because, why not?
Lauren had a great sense of humor.
And she loved…duct tape. Loved! Lauren was the single largest consumer of duct tape in the history of the world. She could make anything with duct tape. I don’t even know if she knew what a duct was, but man could she turn that stuff into the most amazing creations. Many of you only know that pink duct tape exists, because of Lauren.
What Da Vinci was to the arts, Lauren was to the crafts. Give her a few buttons, a glue gun, and some pipe cleaners and she could MacGyver the hell out of that stuff and make you a house.
And she made the most amazing cakes. She was the cake boss before there was such a thing as the cake boss.
And nobody knew how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookies like she did. They’re supposed to be a bit burnt people. Charred even. Only she knew how to do it right. She would make those non-burnt cookies for those of you who don’t have my sense of refinement but I think she really shined when she made the burnt ones for me.
She had a hard life. Much more than her fair share of suffering. But she rarely lost her sense of humor. She loved a good cancer joke. Because if you’re going thru hell, the least you can do is enjoy a good laugh when you can. And she really hated the mock seriousness of it all. The unwritten rule that somehow, for some reason, humor and humanity were suspended when serious topics were in the air.
A week or so ago I was on my way to the airport for a flight to San Francisco. My mom texted me some bad news about Lauren. I called my mom immediately and learned just how grim things were for Lauren. That there were no more treatment options and that we were only looking at how to make her comfortable. I texted Lauren to express something that I won’t repeat here. When I landed in San Francisco, I called Lauren. She was on painkillers and not fully herself. And she told me that she’d been trying to text me for hours but kept falling asleep.
What message was so important that she was trying for hours to compose? Well, I usually ended my notes to Lauren with a reminder to her that I was still fat. Because, you know, I think she deserved the latest on this situation. Well Lauren’s important message to me was to tell me that my last text would have been better if I had ended it with my usual “I’m still fat” message. That’s what she was thinking about.
Lauren was all about her two girls. There were plenty of times I thought she was maybe too much about her girls, but these two kids are evidence that Lauren knew how to make some amazing things not only out of duct tape.
And she had some amazing friends. Many were childhood friends. Some she discovered later in life. All of them are quality people. Because Lauren had high standards when it came to people. She collected the good ones. The true friends. And had no time for the phonies. I think maybe the measure of a person is the kind of people they are drawn to. And who are drawn to them.
Nothing much of significance will happen here today. The movie was already filmed. It already played. Not nearly long enough, but it had its run. And I think it was well received by fans and critics alike.
We’re here today on this very poor substitute of a red carpet to acknowledge, accept, and celebrate who Lauren is and the contribution she has made and will continue to make to so many of us. We’re here to celebrate her life together now because that’s how we create shared meaning. And more importantly, it’s how we transform ephemeral human life into eternal values, ideals, and meanings. I’ll never have a chocolate chip cookie again that really deserves to be eaten, but what Lauren stood for, how she was, the legacy she left us, that’s all ours for the taking. And by coming here today we each take the parts of her that we experienced and make them available for everyone else.
I think I’d be letting Lauren down if I didn’t end with a public service announcement. Lauren did hate the nonsense. The clichés. The things people think they’re supposed to say. So if any of you out there are feeling the urge to tell us that Lauren is in a better place, or it’s all for the good, or God doesn’t give anyone a burden they can’t carry, don’t. But if you know a good joke, bring it. We probably need a few of those today.
Lauren: you’ve been a great sister, daughter, mother, aunt, friend. I love you and I’ll miss you.
Oh, and by the way, I’m fat.