Happy Birthday Lindy, Wherever You Are …
It is true that I’m prone to loud and embarrassingly inappropriate laughter at the worst possible moments. Friends and family are never surprised to hear me hee-hawing away at something stupid. But, at my own sister’s funeral?
Lindy was destined to be a legend, even before her untimely passing. You would learn things about her in abrupt and startling ways.
“Stop the car!” she screamed. I nearly went off the road. “What the hell?” I spluttered as she threw open the door and strode back to a deer carcass on the side of the road. She whipped open her backpack and took out a tarp. “What do you think you’re doing!” I shrieked as she dragged the deer corpse to my pristine Land Rover.
“I’m a raptor rehabilitator,” she explained, “I have three peregrine falcons at home who will LOVE this fella!”
Which is how I ended up with a luxury SUV that reeked of deer corpse until I sold it. The falcons, however, totally dug the deer meat.
Lindy was the product of my father’s first marriage. He wasn’t allowed to see her from the divorce at age five to her high school graduation. We had years and years to catch up on with our new and exotic sister. She was an avid animal rights activist, taking the discarded kittens from the polygamist families in Southern Utah before they could drown them. She and her bearded husband James hand-built a home in the mountains there. She tirelessly spoke to indifferent rural schoolchildren about the need for spaying and neutering. Lindy wrote brilliant and sardonic science fiction on the back of old papers to keep from wasting trees. My other sisters and I traded them endlessly, delighted at her cleverness.
With a fierceness and integrity I lacked, Lindy strode fearlessly through life adhering to principles like reverence to the earth, tender caretaking of resources, love for animals and the downtrodden. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer at fifty-five, she was pissed. I mean, really pissed. Miss Organic, Weave My Own Skirts, Milk the Cows, and Let the Black Widow Spider Live in My Bathroom Because She Was There First gets breast cancer? Even while enduring chemotherapy, she would write me lectures about “letting my adrenal glands go,” sternly prescribing herbal teas and meditation.
She died a few weeks after her birthday. The chemo had burned her nipples into browned wrinkles. When James called us, distraught and weeping, I raced upstairs and scrabbled through my closet, looking for her latest manuscript that I’d bullied out of her. I held it and cried.
We drove down for the service, held in the tiny town of Oroville in Northern California where they’d built the remote mountain home they planned to retire in. James took my hand. “She has something for you.”
“What?” I was startled, knowing Lindy had given everything to the Sea Shepard Foundation and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. James took me to his truck and pulled out an old metal box. He cradled it in his arms.
“You’ve probably wondered how she died.”
Well … we kind of did. James hadn’t been able to choke out more than it was a cardiac arrest, her courageous heart weakened by the chemo.
“If I tell you,” he pleaded, “would you just tell everyone? I can’t say it twice.”
She’d come home from chemo, he said, in a good mood. They made dinner and watched a movie together. Lindy was feeling festive. “You know I could never say no to her,” James was blushing.
I swallowed. “So, she …”
James sniffed. “She dragged me into the bedroom. Fifteen minutes later—”
“Fifteen minutes?” I interrupted, “Wow.”
“She sort of, froze up on me.” James continued. “It was very quick.”
I bit the inside of my cheek so hard that I could feel a little blood pooling there. I gave my sweet brother-in-law a hug and sat in my rental car, put a blanket over my head and laughed until I nearly wet myself.
Telling the story to my sisters was easier, because we could alternately laugh and cry together for hours. Passing the way she did, with such insouciance, such defiance of petty mortal challenges. It was SO our Lindy.
I treasure her stories; they wait now for me to publish them. When I do, you should really read “Hell-Bent for Heaven” first. It’s my favorite.