On July 2, 2002, my sister, Grace Ellen Sirman Marcel, unexpectedly left this earth. From all that my family has learned, she died in her sleep. The Sunday before her death, she had gone to church, read scripture during the service and sang in the choir. That evening she e-mailed family and friends and had dinner and watched a movie at a neighbor’s home. Remembering a loved one after they are gone is one of the best tributes I can think of–the little things about them, the things that carry with you for your lifetime. So if you’ll allow me a moment of personal privilege, I’d like to tell you about Grace. I called her Gracie. She was almost 11 years older than me. Here are some of my memories from when I was a kid:
. . . looking up to she and my brother David. They got to play in the deep end of the pool with the big kids, while I had to stay near the steps in the shallow end. One day I’d be big too.
. . . sharing a bedroom when I was little. Each night we’d try to get the other to get up and turn off the lights.
. . . learning to ride a bike as she and David helped me. Down our street we’d go… all three of us… me screaming don’t let go… eventually one of them would let go and I’d go flying.
. . . playing dress up with her clothes and make up. There’s nothing like a little sister getting into all your stuff.
. . . writing in books I wasn’t supposed to write in–books that she and my brother had with their names in the front. I scratched over their names and wrote my own…. colored in them… stamped pictures in them. I’m sure there were times that she thought none of her stuff was sacred.
. . . watching her dance in the living room one year when she was home from college. It looked to me like she was just marching around, but I remember her insisting on teaching me her dance. I was the only kid in 4th grade who knew how to do the hustle.
. . . going to see gymnastics at the Superdome in New Orleans–Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci–Grace took me. I thought I was in heaven. It was the most inspirational thing I’d ever seen.
. . . watching her plane land when she’d fly home from college and thinking one day I’ll fly, too.
. . . knowing she was in the audience at musicals I was in and at my graduations.
We also shared the love of music. Our family sang together both informally in the living room and for all kinds of occasions. I thought all families sang in 4 part harmony. Even during tough times we would come together and there was peace around the piano. It was the one place that other things didn’t matter: age, tastes, personal differences, paths determined by life choices — our differences faded as we sang together. We each had a part and we all had something to offer. Grace loved music–she loved singing songs of faith — singing in the choir, singing in the contemporary service at her church, learning new pieces, singing at Cursillo and Walk To Emmaus retreats. She also loved listening to music. I found music everywhere–in her house, in her bedroom, on her computer desk, in her car, even in the trunk.
As adults, Grace and I would visit over holidays or when I was singing near her, but mostly we’d talk by phone, and she loved to forward emails she’d think I’d enjoy. She loved being an aunt and she loved pictures that I sent of the boys.
As I remember Grace, there are a flood of things that come to mind. Our common past, last conversations that we didn’t know were last conversations, last visits, things I’d like one more chance at, dreams we shared, hopes for the future. I remember her fondly and I will miss her.
I know God is in the midst of this time. Her faith was something we talked openly about and I trust she is in heaven in communion with the saints. One day I’ll join her to feast at that heavenly banquet.