I didn’t see this one coming.
A close friend and client, Sam, whose team is on Practice 58, did the eulogy for his sister. She was no ordinary sister and this was no ordinary eulogy.
Margaret Elizabeth Koon was born in 1951 in rural Kentucky. Unlike the other babies born the same week, the doctors and nurses hardly gave her half a glance. Her parents were told they had given birth to a ‘Mongoloid child’ and to quietly let them ship her to an institution for whatever short years remained. The child would only be a burden to the family and hinder the development of her older sister. Father would hear nothing of it. “Bring me our daughter NOW – we are taking her home.”
Beth was home schooled until the earliest special-ed centers for children with Down Syndrome were pioneered who shared her parents’ philosophy of respecting her as a person, encouraging her to fulfill her potential, valuing her contributions, and providing quality of life and love. At the age of 18, Beth became a spunky employee at ARC East and worked 41 years. As her health declined, the family found a company, Upreach LLC, whose owners’ philosophy was similar to theirs.
Sam didn’t get up for his eulogy until after an hour of family and friend remembrances bore witness of the impact Beth had on everyone in her circle of influence. The staff at Upreach choked back tears as they sat with the family in the front rows. Imagine a person with zero guile, optimism at all times, rose-colored glasses when others are hurtful, kind encouragement when others are hurting, and a straight shooter who will give you truth exactly the way she sees it. Far from growing up hindered, her older sister thanked God for the blessing of a perfect sister. When such a person has walked this earth, even this large Jersey church was barely big enough to hold everyone.
“So you’ve heard one remembrance after another with the same melody line,” Sam began. “Now we’re going to do something a little different. I want you to get out a pen and WRITE. From what you just heard, write your answer to the question, why did she LIVE?”
With a wink he smiled and I nodded.
“Good writing,” he continued. “Now, I want you to break into groups of 3-5 wherever you are and talk about what you wrote. And if you are here this morning but never personally met Beth, ask curious questions from those who knew her to learn why she lived from their perspective.”
Shock waves ripped through the room and rippled up to the heavens. The buzz and the energy were numbing. Laughter, tears, and shrieks turned a memorial into a celebration. Strangers were A-LONE no more. We had become ALL-ONE, distinct AND deeply connected.
Thank you, Beth. Thank you, Sam. Thank you, Toto.