Here is the eulogy I wrote and delivered at Sandy’s Celebration of Life service (please read my post about hyperhidrosis and public speaking if you haven’t already). The themes you’ll read about below also can be applied to life with hyperhidrosis. The universe works in mysterious ways. You’ll see I’ve quoted a few people here. I first discovered Brene Brown in January when I attended a workshop for Highly Sensitive People (HSPs). Kelly Rae Roberts has been my favorite artist for several years now, and her work is helping me to heal this year. Shortly after Sandy passed away, Kelly released her newest piece called Your Heart, which reminds me of myself and Sandy. I ordered it the very same day I saw it, and it’s a signed print. I also placed copies of the eulogy inside a basket with the beautifully, messy, complicated story art by Kelly. Fast forward to this month, and Brene and Kelly have teamed up with Oprah to offer an online class. Love it!
The artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts that was printed on the hard copies of Sandy’s eulogy.
I’d like to begin by sharing a few stories about Sandy. For those of you who don’t know me, my family lived next door to Sandy back in the 90s. Sandy was pregnant with Danny when my mom was pregnant with my little sister CJ. I grew up babysitting Danny and took delight in the fact that she always introduced me as her surrogate daughter and the sister Danny never had.
I first knew I liked Sandy after my mom freaked out when I told her who I was with. You see, Sandy and I both had our vices – hers were cigarettes, mine were Skor candy bars. So at the young age of 9 when I was home alone after school, I left my mom a ransom note of sorts, explaining that I was walking down to the gas station with Sandy “Schuss.”
“Sandy who?” said my mom when I got home.
“Sandy Schuss, mom. That’s what her license plate SAYS.”
“Oh! You mean Sandy Bristoll? Schuss means she’s a skier, honey.”
My mom totally thought I had gone somewhere with a stranger.
“Oh, Chaaaaalotte.” I can hear Sandy saying in that special way she had. “Would you like some toe-mah-toes on your salad?”
You mean tomatoes? How “appropo,” ‘twas the way she spoke.
When I got engaged to be married, I’d already had plenty of time to think about whom I’d like to have in my wedding party. So when I called Sandy to ask her to be a bridesmaid, there was library level quiet on the other end of the phone. And then she finally said, “Oh, Ria. It’s a good thing you’re not here because you’d have to pick me up off the floor. Are you serious? You want ME in your wedding?”
Um, duh, Sandy. And Danny, too. She couldn’t understand why I would want a 57-year-old bridesmaid. I wanted Sandy because she was a hero to others and a champion of me. She spoke truth into me and loved me first so that I could begin to learn how to love myself. Sometimes I wonder whether she realized her own worth, or knew just who God created her to be as He added another flourish of color to the world with His paintbrush.
What I learned from Sandy was a lot. So when I tried to figure out what the most important lessons she imparted to me were, it was daunting. But then I started to see a theme in all I’ve learned from her; that theme is love wide.
Wake up to your life. Be present for it. Everything in life is here to teach you a lesson. It’s up to you whether you get the lesson. Don’t ignore the lessons that come as pebbles, then as stones, and then as bricks, because pretty soon you’ll end up with a brick wall. From Sandy, I learned how to demolish my brick wall.
To begin to tear down your brick wall, you have to start with yourself. Forgiveness must happen, and in most cases it starts with you. Whatever choices you’ve made, whatever life has thrown at you, every day is a chance to begin anew, to love wide. So I encourage you to forgive yourself for whatever it might be that is holding you in shame and dimming your inner light. When you release your secrets, you release your shame.
2) Love Wide
Forgiveness is the stepping stone to love. Forgive others for what they may have done to you. It’s not about them anyway. It’s about you stepping into your best life. Strength, courage, and wisdom are prerequisites to love. This, too, I learned from Sandy. So be a seeker of all these things. Pay attention when people are having a conversation with you. Put your cell phone away. Covet the good in all things, and “when people show you who they are, believe them—the first time.” (Maya Angelou)
3) Nurture Your Relationships
Relationships require reciprocity. Be willing to put others above yourself, and more often than not you’ll find they do the same for you. Radiate passion for the lives of those around you. If you’re the one who always has to call or initiate contact, I’m telling you today, Get soooo over it. Do what you can, with what you have, right where you are. Realize that you are enough exactly as you are so that others can learn to do the same.
4) Stand in Your Truth
Sandy always made me feel like myself in my own skin, which speaks volumes for someone who has a sweating condition and is usually literally uncomfortable in her own skin. When you are comfortable and accepted for who you are, you can love wide. Sandy always made sure it wasn’t too hot when we spent time together, and always checked with me first whether I wanted to eat inside or outside when we went to eat, usually mussels or some kind of seafood if we could find anything decent in Greeley. Sandy was never afraid or ashamed to grip my sweaty hands in hers and utter things like, “How did I get so lucky to have you in my life?!” Believe me, the honor was all mine.
To stand in your truth means to tell your story. I always knew I had permission to be real when I was with Sandy. Your beautifully messy complicated story matters (tell it). (Kelly Rae Roberts) Don’t let shame prevent you from saying what you need to say. “To tell your story is to bring light to shame and destroy it. Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” (Brenè Brown)
5) Embrace Vulnerability
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.” (Eckhart Tolle) Take chances. Fling open wide the gates of your heart. If you are struggling with something in your life, I implore you to be vulnerable and ask for help. For it is only in vulnerability where true connection takes place. Look around you for the helpers in your life. They are there, waiting to be of service.
This reminds me of another Sandy story. She tried very hard to keep up with technology, but it took her awhile to figure out Facebook and her fancy new iPhone. She would post all these status messages, like “testing, Caroline Taylor”, post comments as notes instead, and then ask how to fix things, which would prompt paragraph-long tutorials from me.
She was so cute with her iPhone, tilting it up just so in order to see the keys and concentrate on trying to text us back as fast as we could text her. There were many times I just took her phone from her and said “Here, let me do it.” But she never gave up trying to master social media, and she didn’t care if she might have looked silly trying to do it. She allowed herself to be vulnerable.
It’s okay to not always have everything together. That’s what friends and family are for. To hold you up when you can’t do it yourself. Allow yourself to love and be loved. Choose to see others and to be seen.
To every one of you here today, please know that I see you. Asian, white, gay, straight, Christian, Buddhist—I see you. You matter. Decide right now, today, that you are enough exactly as you are. Don’t dim your light. We all need a light from within in order to shine outward. Stay in the light. Have the courage to wake up every day and decide to love yourself more than you ever have before. What you think about expands, so love wide.
Sandy’s roots have been upturned and replanted in Heaven. We have our own personal angel in the sky now, whose roots are being nourished with the cleanest, purest air.
Sandy can breathe now without fear. And for that, I am grateful.
In loving memory of Sandra A. Bristoll 10-30-47 to 4-29-13
Copyright 2013 My Life as a Puddle