Life, Death, Life


On December 30th, we got a phone call early in the morning: a new arrival in the family, a gorgeous little boy, very nearly a mirror image of our own little guy. Two cousins, a month apart, destined to be mistaken for each other their whole lives.

Twelve hours later, a friend passed away.

Sharyn was one of those people who breathes calm into the world. You don’t ever know how they do it, you just know that serenity surrounds them. Grace. You come into their presence feeling crazed, sure that the world is precariously balanced on your shoulders, and something about the way they look at you, listen to you, interrupts the stream of freak-out-ness (yes, I’m making up words. Deal with it.) and injects a quiet into your soul that wasn’t there a few minutes before.

This is a trait I’ve witnessed in a few people of faith, and nowhere else. And every time I see it, I think, Someday I want to grow up and be like her.

There are people in your life who are simply there, as inevitable as the sunrise, taken utterly for granted. You may not see them often, but when you do, you pick up right where you left off. Sharyn was like that for me. She was one of the core members of the choir that brought Christian and I together; she sang the day we got engaged, and she sang the day we got married. After we left Newman, we saw her at the music store whenever we went in for church or studio business. A world without her seems inconceivable, and yet I haven’t wept for her, because a person so kind surely has to be fast-tracked into the presence of God.

We celebrated Sharyn’s funeral on Saturday. Three, four hundred people, gathered beneath lit garlands and beautiful red-foliage swags and hanging lanterns. I sang with a choir patchworked together from several “generations” of Newman choirs. Christian and the kids came in time for Mass. They kept waving at me with smiles so sweet that I couldn’t help smiling back, thanking God for the bounty of the blessings in my life, which this occasion so clearly spotlit.

Michael spent Mass sleeping in a friend’s arms, except when he and I retreated to a barricade behind the organ to nurse. He didn’t care for this venue, and into the post-Communion silence he let loose a howl of outrage that echoed around the church. I felt quite self-conscious until I thought how Sharyn would have smiled at that sound. She would have loved the juxtaposition of new life upon the passing of her own. And although the knowledge that she’s left us causes a pang, and for her family leaves a hole that can never be filled, in some ways I think this was her last, best gift to us: to start the new year with such a beautiful reminder that life is, indeed, eternal.

10 thoughts on “Life, Death, Life

  1. Terrie Foltz

    Wow! You captured in words Sharyn and the celebration of her life. I loved sitting behind your family and couldn’t help but smile at their enthuastic joy at seeing you in the choir. Thanks for sharing this with all of us.

  2. Rebecca Boston

    Thank you Kate. My mom loved telling me about your family, and many other people that would come in the store that I might remember from Newman. She loved it all. Very beautiful tribute. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it in your busy life.

  3. This is beautifully written. I agree that your friend would love the howl of the baby during communion. Your description of a calming grace reminds me of just a couple of women I have known who can walk into a room and literally, everyone present seems to take one step closer just to be near them. The light seems to shimmer around them, and your eyes shift to a soft focus. Amazing responses. I’ve witnessed this. There is a grace about these women that make everyone want to slow down and absorb the peace that radiates from them.

    I very much enjoyed this piece. Thank you for sharing!

  4. debseeman

    Thank you for sharing this. I see in this post a kindness and love for others. Your approach to your friends passing was so calm and peaceful. I felt the sadness, but the sadness you shared wasn’t the wailing inconsolable sort. It was a wistful, nostalgic sadness.

  5. Sharyn is so worthy of this tribute. We should all aspire to live up to that peaceful grace she embodied. I cannot say this about anyone else…when my mom called to tell me Sharyn had passed, the flash of imagery and audio that went through my mind were her smile and sweet laughter. I thought to myself, now that’s telling.

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