Sue’s Memorial

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013 | Family

My sister Sue’s memorial service was held on Sunday. Here’s a little something that I wrote and read at the service, in memory of my divine sibling:

Sue dropped me once. I was still a toddler, we were jumping on the bed and I bounced right off and landed on my teeth. I don’t remember it at all, except a vague recollection of being on a table and doctors looking at me and a bright light shining on my face. One day when I was a teenager, Sue asked me, “Do you remember me dropping you when you were a baby?” and told me the story.

Shocked, I replied no, what else was she going to tell me, that I was also brain-damaged? I detected that she was carrying around a slight sense of guilt, but having no access to the memory and ostensibly suffering no consequences, I tried to allay her perceived concerns. “No, no, I have no memory whatsoever.”

What I relished was this idea that I had finally been able to jump on the bed, which mom and dad never allowed. I imagined us bouncing around and laughing, her tickling me and trying to make me bounce higher and higher, that unrestrained joy that you see in kids’ faces.

Then a few years later, she asked me, “Do you remember me driving you and Mark around in the station wagon and going over that bump in the road?”

Oh no, I thought, what now?

“Well,” she continued, “I thought it would be fun to go over the bump really fast with you guys. You weren’t wearing seat belts and you both flew out of your seats, up into the air, floating in space for a moment, nearly banging your heads on the roof of the car, crying and screaming as you landed back in your seats.”

She laughed, more amused by the memory than disturbed by the thought of seatbeltless kids flying around in a speeding car.

I loved the idea of Sue’s daredevil driving, clearly meant to amuse us, and imagined us hovering in the air, like little astronauts.

Sue never revealed any more near-death encounters that she contributed to my childhood. I mentioned these incidents to Carol last night, and she remembers driving the car. Mark and I do that sometimes, occasionally appropriating the memories of each other as our own. “Hey, that happened to me, not you!” It never seems to matter much who had the actual experience, as siblings our memories have become part of a collective mythic childhood narrative where nothing much went wrong, where the joy of just being together overrode concerns for personal safety or even potential brain damage.

Sue, or maybe Carol, gave me the closest thing to being an astronaut, which surely every boy my age at some point desired to be. Missing Sue is like what I imagine astronauts feel when they return to earth, the heaviness of gravity suddenly apparent after months of weightlessness. If Sue didn’t kill me by dropping me or driving like a crazy woman, she made me feel, every day that we were together, that we were little kids jumping on a bed, higher and higher, laughing hysterically. “Just one more time, please,” I want to yell, a little kid again, “Come on, Susie, one more time…”

2 Comments to Sue’s Memorial

Diane Wallis
June 23, 2013

Oh Chris, this is beautifully written…how nice that you have those memories and that you can share them with your sisters and brother. Thanks for writing. Thinking of you guys with love.

June 24, 2013

Thank you, Diane!

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