Getting Through Mixed Emotions

It is almost three months since my sister Eileen left us.  It’s a strange time. Family and close friends remember what you are still going through, but most forget.  This is normal.


You may remember that I had gone through quite a bit during the months before and after her death.  When I think back on that time, there are a couple things that really make me happy.  The first is that during the conversations I had with my boss about taking a leave of absence, she said, “I don’t want you to have any regrets.”  She spoke my mind and that was what I really needed to hear.

Having returned to Ankara shortly before Eileen’s death, I was back at the office when an unofficial dinner party had occurred.  Two co-workers, both of whom I really liked were leaving our office.  Here is what I as doing just hours before Eileen died:

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I had no regrets.  As I tried to enjoy myself, I knew things were quickly progressing back in the States.  Believe me, no one stopped me from leaving the dinner early.  They knew what was happening and I hope I did not spoil anyone’s evening.

When I came home, I turned on the television and started to watch one of Eileen’s favorite movies, “The Sound of Music.”  I fell asleep on the couch.

Hours later, Eileen left. It was Wednesday night.  I awoke to a phone call and paused the film.  Maria and the Captain were sharing a kiss in the gazebo. Back in the States, the family who were with Eileen at the time had also turned on the Sound of Music during her final moments.  Weeks later, my niece told me that she passed at the same moment that Maria and the Captain kissed.

I made flight arrangements and arrived Friday.  The memorial service was scheduled for Tuesday.

On Sunday morning, days before the service, I just couldn’t bring myself to go to mass with mom and my sister. But surprisingly, once they left the house, I got a burst of energy and came up with a plan.

I decided to throw a “party” in Eileen’s honor, that very afternoon.  I quickly sent emails and made calls to the immediate family only.  The response was overwhelming! Sometimes I just can’t love my siblings enough! A couple couldn’t make it because of distance. And some may have had some trouble with the whole idea of a party, or maybe it was something else, but they came anyway. To my delight, each and every family member brought something to eat or drink!!!  In my memory, it was awesome and made me happy.

My family and friends have mixed emotions about the memorial service itself. It was on a weekday in the morning, which limited attendance.  It also snowed, which frustrated things even more.  It was not a type of service with which we were very familiar.  But that was okay with us.  What was not okay was the Eulogist, the Pastor of Eileen’s church.  I really don’t want to get into that.  It was quite upsetting.  But there are some other memories of that day which are grand.

My closest friends in the States came; Brenda, John, and Martine.  My jaw nearly hit the floor when my friend Sharon came.  I hadn’t seen or talked to her in a long time.  But she heard the news, broke away from work, and made it through the bad streets to be there for me.  Sometimes time and distance just don’t matter.  Good friends are good friends.

Of course, my best friends in Ankara – Jules, Beyza, and Steve – had shown their support too, sending messages and cards, and yummy treats of adorable mini cupcakes and a chocolate dipped fruit bouquet.

Photo courtesy of


At the service there were gorgeous flowers.  A large one from her husband’s side of the family.  A dozen longstem roses from her mother and 11 remaining siblings.  Fifty sweetheart roses from her innumerable nieces and nephews.  A gorgeous wreath from her family in Germany.  And one that surprised me, a white bridal bouquet.  Apparently Eileen had chosen this herself as a gift to our mother.  Her friend, Barbara, lovingly followed Eileen’s wishes and ordered it for Mom.

My last truly fond memory of the day, were the beautiful photos.  Eileen’s daughter, Michele, with a little help from her family and grandmother, selected photos of Eileen and the family.  The funeral home created a collage which played on a giant screen above us throughout the morning.  I really loved that and wish I had taken photos of it.

In addition, my Mom wanted to do something special.  So on Monday afternoon, my sister Mary, Mom, and I poured through every photo we could find – that Michele hadn’t already nabbed – and put together this collage, which was set on an easel in the lobby.  I really enjoyed watching everyone look at the photos, comment on them, take trips down memory lane . . .

Time is passing.  Emotions don’t really subside.  That’s okay.  Today I just needed an outlet.  Thanks for listening.  I hope you enjoyed the photos and video as much as I enjoyed these moments.

A time we will never forget - Big brother Tom holding Eileen's hand
A time we will never forget – Big brother Tom holding Eileen’s hand

6 thoughts on “Getting Through Mixed Emotions

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  1. Very mixed emotions, indeed. I have lost many family members and it is always hard and often bittersweet.

  2. . . having a real family is great, something to cling to and value. When families are fractured it’s surprising where ‘substitutes’ appear from as I learned when my youngest daughter died back in November. Sometimes I wonder if the ‘haunting will ever end – what will be remembered is the wonderful support that came from around the world.

  3. Now, this post made me cry. Yes, I did enjoy the photos and reading what you all did. Amazing. We made a similar collage for my dad’s reception after his funeral and similarly it was wonderful both for us and for others. Hope you are doing OK, Terry.

  4. A lovely post, Terry, it made me smile with tearful eyes. It is so important to be able to talk about loved ones who are no longer physically with us. I found it very difficult when my husband died, that the very people who had been so very present at the time of his death, then faded away and looked embarrassed when I wanted to talk about him some months later.
    I believe that your loved ones stay alive in your heart because you talk about them and I treasure the close friends and family I have who allow me to laugh and celebrate my husband’s life. You are right, emotions don’t subside, when they were strong they stay strong and you learn to live with them and appreciate the outlets as you call them. Thank you for sharing your moments, I feel privileged.

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