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Author: Subject: Sometimes a Scotsman must weep
Mighty Faerie Hunter


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[*] Post 387549 posted on 4-9-2009 at 20:45 Reply With Quote
Sometimes a Scotsman must weep

The following will appear on the opinion page of the Merrill Foto News on Sept. 9, 2009

It is August 31 and it is the hardest day of my life, and it was just made more difficult by an Episcopal priest gesturing at me. It is my turn to speak and my legs are now weaker than they have ever been in my life and if there was anything in my stomach, it would probably be coming up about now.

Being someone who is proud of his command of the English language – I better be since I make my living from it – public speaking normally isn’t a problem. You spend a little time; outline what you are going to say and you say it. I have done it so many times in my life it is automatic.

But as I watch my 23-year-old nephew sit down next to me and I find the strength to stand, I feel so inadequate to the task before me. My nephew wipes tears from his eyes and I recall the words spoken to me by my grandfather so many years ago.

“Scottish men do not weep, lad,” he had told me over a scraped knee. It was one of the few memories of my father’s father I have and I squeeze the memory tight, seeking strength from them.

As I walk past my sister lying at the front of a crowded Maria Creek Chapel on the campus of Vincennes University, all I want to do is scream, to cry, to wave off the task now ahead of me. I had made it to the podium once already to read the Old Testament lesson and lead the assembled in the 23rd Psalm, how many more words must I say? I had agonized until 4 a.m. over what to say and for once in my life I had no words at my command.

My sister had repeatedly told me how proud she was of what I had accomplished in my life. She had reveled in my exploits from around the world as I had recounted them to her. She loved the photos I sent from the many places I had traveled. She was the one who stayed in Vincennes while the rest of the family had moved away. She had risen through the ranks to become the lead custodian of all academic buildings and the service was being held on the campus because so many of her co-workers wanted to attend that it was moved here. They mourn my sister’s passing, and they, too, want words from me.

It had been eight years since I had seen my sister. My move to Wisconsin seven years ago and the pressures of living on deadline worked to keep a family apart. It had been that long since I had last seen my mother and at least 15 since I had seen my baby sister, who lives in Georgia. My sister in Louisville I had just seen a month ago when she had come up with her husband and youngest child on their way to Cadott.

As I glance at my sister, lying there as if sleeping, another flood of memories overcome me. For the past 36 hours, I have been seeing people I had not seen much in the 32 years since I graduated from Lincoln High School and fled to the Army two days after graduation. Some of these people I had known for over 40 years. One brought a photo of my sister and her taken in 1974; it was in my suit coat pocket to be copied with my camera after the service and returned.

[bad img]http://i12.photobucket.com/albums/a224/redwolf5150/Peggy1974.jpg[/bad img]
Peggy Taylor, 1974

That photo represented memories and the years that have flowed past. We were two families that had become so close it was like one extended clan. We suffered many tragedies together and celebrated a lot of weddings, births and in some cases divorces. But now there is a lot of grey hair in that crowd as I look out from the podium. There are a few who time and death had already taken from us. Our ranks are decreasing, and the absence of those not there is felt as strongly as it was a blessing to see everyone I have seen in the last 36 hours.

I keep reflecting on the grey hairs and the wrinkles. We aren’t old, but we sure are older. We are no longer “Princes of the Universe” but aging, battle-scarred veterans of life. Some of my friends had grandchildren in attendance. At the visitation we constantly compared the total amount of pills we have to take every day, and frankly the only thing that has gotten me this far is a double dose of one of those medicines.

I lean on the podium for support as much as for posture. All these people are looking to me to say words. I am supposed to say something to give comfort, but I am hurting too, and I could use a lot of words of comfort right now myself. My nephew’s words had just about cracked through my Scottish armor and a few tears have escaped already.

I look at my mother sitting in the front row, there at my insistence from a nursing home. She had said goodbye to my father too many years ago, yet Elizabeth Taylor was sitting there serene and together and proud. Proud of herself for beating all she had faced health wise, of her daughter for generating this kind of turnout, her other two daughters and me, her oldest who now has to do what “the man of the family” always has to do. As I have been doing all weekend.

So I do the only thing you can do in a situation like that. I speak from my heart. I say what my sister would want said. How she would be upset that “her custodians” have to work needlessly to clean up the chapel where her service is being held. That remark makes everyone laugh, because it is so true. I then reminded everyone that this is not my sister Peggy, but only “the vessel through which she had sailed through life in.” She yet lives in our minds and hearts, and always will. That, too, is true.

I then kiss my sister’s forehead goodbye one last time.

The memory of my grandfather’s words keeps me from crying, and I swear I feel his and my father’s presence beside me.

I can barely hear the words of the university president. That my sister ranked his attendance is a testimony to her. I absorb some of what the priest, our old Sunday school teacher, says. They are words spoken by people trying to find words and failing to some degree or another. We then take the long ride to the cemetery. Through a town that once had been home but time has erased so many of the landmarks that I have to strain to recognize it.

All too soon, it is over and the bagpiper plays “Amazing Grace,” a serenade for a daughter of a member of the Sept Ritchie of the Clan MacIntosh.

We are then left to deal with our grief, to measure our loss and share memories, first at my sister’s favorite tavern and then the riverside park we had driven through earlier. And we all continue to try to find words to comfort one another as the alcohol flows and food is eaten and photographs are taken. One is of the Taylor family, at least those who are in attendance. Four generations of Taylor women is also documented and a group shot of “The Old Gang” is taken. But always with the thought in the back of our minds that there is one more missing in each photograph.

Then we again scatter to the four winds. Siblings embrace, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of friends are exchanged and we start filtering away.

To my sister Margaret Ann Taylor Lindsay, born July 20, 1960 and left on her final journey August 26, 2009, know that you will be missed every day for the rest of my days. It will be that way for more people than you probably even realized. You raised two wonderful, well adjusted children, the last few years as a single mother. You touched so many lives in small and large ways, and we shared a life that is rich in treasured memories that nobody can take from me.

And you know, when nobody is looking, that I weep for your passing still.
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[*] Post 387550 posted on 4-9-2009 at 21:00 Reply With Quote

(((((((((((((((((((((( Redwolf ))))))))))))))))))))))

That was a very moving account. Your sister was very beautiful.
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[*] Post 387556 posted on 4-9-2009 at 21:53 Reply With Quote

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