From the double-unveiling memorial service for my Grandmother and her brother:
I'm going to talk for a few minutes about Uncle Mike & Grandma not as individuals, but as siblings, and the significance of that particular relationship as it pertained to their lives, and ours.
One of the requisite characteristics to being a quality human being is knowing how to share. It's one of the first lessons we're taught in school, and it is an instruction that it reiterated throughout our personal and professional lives. Sharing. And no relationship prepares us better or teaches us more about sharing than being a sibling.
Genetics aside, as siblings we share the resources in the house, the food on the table, bedrooms and bathrooms and even the remote control on the TV. As we get older, if we're close enough in age, we start to share experiences beyond the home. We may have the same teachers and maybe even the same friends. What we learn from being a sibling, and all of this sharing, is that sometimes we're going to be expected to put another person in front of ourselves. We're forced to recognize that we're not the only person who has a need. There are other people in this world, and your sibling serves as a constant reminder of this.
This responsibility is a gift. If we're lucky, our sibling can be our confidant, our cohort and our example. We can learn from our sibling's failures and successes as much as from our own. Our brother or sister can be our friend because he or she is sharing our life, our situations, our parents' displeasures or respect… With your sibling you can view your parents together as those taller, older alien beings who seem to have an entirely different sense of the world. As you grow up, you and your siblings will form your own new realities together.
Even when siblings move away from each other the sharing continues. When our identities are more-or-less formed and we see ourselves as individuals, that's when we start to share bigger: ideas, perspectives, events and philosophies. We share the pleasures and sorrows of life. It can be tricky to stay connected when we're no longer playing the same games with the same rules. Maybe we don't share geography, or even the same values. This can create a dynamic situation, but it's still good because the sibling that knows you helps you to further define yourself. In architecture and photography the negative space can be just as defining as the subject itself.
So… Grandma and Uncle Mike. I honestly don't know much about what their life was like when they were children, but they always maintained their connection to each other, even when they realized they were their own people and they were leading very different lives. At some point it didn't matter if they had kids or if they were observant in the same ways, or who had a house where because they always stayed connected through their common history and they held their mutual interest in family and each other. Their relationship was forged in steel and gold.
When Mike died a year ago Grandma said "I lost my Baby Brother." The baby brother who wasn't a baby for over eighty years was perpetually her baby brother. I'm sure their relationship had its set of bumps, as all relationships do, but they were always able to go back and reapply that most important lesson from their childhood: To Share.
Mike & Edith were citizens of the world in large part because of their connection to each other. They both taught and they both gave back. They had friends and they made an impact on their communities. They had the capacity to see beyond themselves and they recognized that we don't have to be trapped inside our own egos all of the time. And that's because they were siblings and the sibling relationship is unique in that way. It always brings you back and for this reason it is special. Sacred. Like anything else it requires care and nurturing, but so long as we remember to share, even when we don't agree, we're going to recognize that these differences actually help us too, just as they always have.
I think it's fitting that we're honoring Grandma and Mike in this memorial service together. After everything they went through together from practically the same starting point to practically the same end, it's amazing to think that now they are in their final resting place together. Their lives were a beautiful poem of intersecting stanzas, connected and disparate ideas, but with common imagery, memory and a base. As we plot our own courses we'll continue to read the versus of their poem -- and share them with each other until we arrive at our own ending verse.