Friday, April 29, 2011

In Memory of Amy

A year ago today my sister-in-law Amy died. I have not been able to write about her all year and find it just as hard to write about today.  Amy was everything. She was a joy to be around, funny, beautiful, silly, infuriating, thoughtful, selfish, good, short-sighted, anxious and bright.  I personally think her ultimate quality was goodness. Everyone loved her and she genuinely wanted to make people happy.

At her funeral I was shocked by the number of people that came through from "Sharon's" the restaurant where she worked. Everyone had a nice story to tell about how she brightened their day. This included teenagers, to families, and to an elderly gentleman from my neighborhood.

We moved two days after she died and it turned out to be a quite a time of turmoil. We had to find homes for pets, pack, start a new school and experience her passing and funeral with respect and care. I especially wanted to give my husband Dan room to do what he needed to do. I found that I have had a hard time mourning--I am not usual a denial type of person, but in this case I have been.  The funeral was beautiful and everyone (all 6 siblings) gave wonderful talks. We received a beautiful bound copy of all the talks from Dan's sister and I can't seem to even get through one to this day without crying. So I prefer not to read them or even think about it.

Yet, I drive her car.

My camera's broken so here is a good
likeness of "Zippy"
It is the thing that reminds me most of her.  Her Volkswagen new beetle--a bright orange bug. It has the fake orange flower in the little vase by the steering wheel and everything, a total girlie car! After she passed we took over payments and my 17 year old daughter was supposed to drive it, but it's a manual transmission that I can't seem to find the time to teach her (of course I don't really want to).

It is a fun, impractical and turbo charged car. We've named it Zippy Naranja because it is orange (the Spanish word for orange is supposed to add an exotic flair) and Zippy because well it is quite zippy! It is a car to be noticed in--I used to prefer to be understated while driving, but not anymore.  I see people giving each other slugs as I drive by. Many mornings as I drive my other daughter to junior high I pass these two adorable girls with long red hair that must be twins, and I watch to see who slugs who as I drive by.

I've had several elderly ladies stop me as I've parked and ask if I like to drive it. I tell them that I love it--they look at it longingly and them tell me how much they hate to park their SUV's and then one even sighed. At a stop light in Logan, Utah I had a little boy who was probably 8 lean out his window and tell me, "I love your car." Then just two weeks ago a little girl stopped by it and say to her mom, "I want a car like this." When I stopped to unlock it she said to me, "Do you like your car." Of course I said "yes."

Every experience I've had reminds me of Amy. Even her car brought joy to people even though it is so impractical. It is terrible in the snow, it hardly fits two comfortably (and I am a mother of 5), the windows don't like to roll up, but they love to roll down. It is made for little people, I have a hard time fitting my groceries in it let alone me bum!  Yet, I find myself not encouraging my daughter to learn how to drive it--let her have the mini-van--it keeps her humble.

I was sad when I realized in December that the car no longer smelled like Amy. Then just this week when it was finally warm I got in the car and the smell was there. Amy was still there. I've kept most of her radio pre-sets (I had to add NPR) and I can't seem to throw out this one particularly Amy-like frosted pink lip gloss in the arm rest.

The car is full of contradictions, and so was Amy. She was a tragedy and a triumph. She'd had problems but had been sober for three years. She battled anorexia until the end. She brought happiness and frustration to all who loved her. She was fastidious and careless. Just before she passed she had the flu and my wonderful mother-in-law had been with her all evening trying to keep her hydrated and get her to go to the Emergency Room. She refused to go and later that night Amy passed away.

Because she was alone when she died an autopsy was required.  All they could say was that she died of natural causes. No specific thing, just a tired body.  She was a couple of years younger than me, but her body wasn't. It seems like such a waste of joy to have her gone, but it also seems such a triumph that she overcame so much.

Well, I like to think she is still spreading the joy in her little orange Volkswagen even if it does have a new driver.