This past Saturday I was tasked with eulogizing my sister Wendy. There are few things in life that rip at one’s soul. This is one…
Over the years, I have prided myself on my ability to put words together “just so” in order to sufficiently and sometimes eloquently, convey just what the occasion called for. And, I have enjoyed it and have remained confident in that ability. Until now. In fact, when Wendy informed me – not asked – that I was to write and deliver her eulogy, my very first thought was honor. I was, and am, honored to be standing in front of you all on behalf of my sister Wendy. So yes, that was my first thought… right up until the moment that a eulogy was necessary and in that moment, in this moment, though honor remains, it is rivaled by an incredible ache somewhere deep in my soul that screams “not yet!” “Don’t do this just yet!” But, the moment is now and like my sister always did so impeccably, I will execute in this moment. Though perhaps not as flawlessly.
The song says “And now, the end is near and so I face the final curtain. My friends, I’ll say it clear and I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full, I traveled each and every highway and more, much more than this, I did it my way…” I think we can all agree that we perhaps could not think of any words that would embody Wendy, the life she has lived and the rhythm with which she has done it, any better. So now, as we all come to terms and grapple with Wendy’s final curtain call, I ask you to remember that curtain calls are only taken by those who have performed well.
This past surreal and quite frankly terrible week, Mummy, Jo, Roxx, Dans, Kayla and I have been the recipient of calls, emails, texts, posts and WhatsApp messages that have all expressed a common theme… how everyone, feels about Wendy. Some of you have been able to express through your pain and others have only been able to breathe. To all of you, for all of it, thank you. Knowing how loved Wendy is and how missed she will be comforts us. And, it makes us proud. You see, Wendy has the last name Wiltshire and her sisters and I can most certainly see ourselves in her, but like nothing else could have, we now recognize Wendy’s lineage with the world.
Most everyone in this room and those attending virtually have their version of an encounter with Wendy and for most, that encounter encompasses either an event or travel. However, the funny thing with Wendy was, even if your intention was to simply hang out or lime, by the time she was done with ambience, dress code, etiquette and gift, that lime was an event! So, tell the truth, is there anyone listening who has never been “Wendy’d?” Thought so. Because, here’s the simple truth about Wendy, she dared to dream, then she dared us to believe. And, we did. She stretched us way past our imaginations and our perceived limitations. She stretched us past where we were comfortable and introduced us to the version of ourselves that could believe in magic and fairytales. Then, she pulled the stars from the sky, presented it to us and told us we deserved it.
But, like everyone who is able to make such magic happen, there were many layered complexities to Wendy – she started most thoughts or conversations with a steupse, September, when she started discussing Christmas, everyone picking one name for gift-giving was the plan, but by Halloween, it was “nah nah nah… dis one-gift ting, nah,” if she had an idea she just took it for granted everyone would be on board to help facilitate – in fact, last year, after accompanying her to Trinidad, while sitting on the tarmac heading back to NY, she informed me (yes, Wendy did a LOT of informing) that the very next week, we were to hear to Italy to begin recon for the Pope-project. After gently reminding her that, ahm, I have responsibilities of my own that necessitated my attention, she responded with “Is troo, yuh know.” In his obituary, Arthur mentioned Wendy’s appetite…. Starving, until the food arrived. Mummy knows this best. Wendy was the sister who asked our nieces Ty and Riley, “Ent I’m the prettiest Wiltshire-sister?” So, not only did she expect to win it over the aunts, she meant to win that particular self-constructed competition even over their own mother! And recently, I told Joanne that one of Wendy’s and my favorite things to do was to complain in our strongest Trini “as SOON as COVID over we goin and stop talking to she!” Now, that was always in response to our grumbling about some bit of news Jo had the unfortunate task of sharing and it was also just before Wendy then moved on to telling me about some other fantastic thing she wanted to buy that Joanne must have for her new kitchen. Wendy would grumble if Jonesy didn’t call her one day and also grumble and steupse when her phone was always ringing. If you didn’t know Wendy and her family intimately, one could easily assume, by her love, dedication and loyalty, that Dawn, Ingrid, Claudia, Pauline, Marjorie, Nozi, Nicky, Vin, Arthur, Ricky, Ainsworth were related by blood or marriage. And before I forget, there were myriad conversations between us that (again) informed me that indeed, I had given birth to her child and she had given birth to mine. So yes, Wendy was quite complex and textured. But as we all know, texture is a thing that most creatives will give an arm and a leg for! Oftentimes, while Wendy was off fulfilling her responsibilities to the World Bank – where she worked, in one capacity or another, for twenty-two years – or traipsing to Germany, South Africa, Paris, Trinidad, Italy or Amsterdam with a contingent for a World Cup or a carnival a la Dare2Discover, her daughters, Danielle – Dans – and Makayla – Kayla – were often left without her physical presence and, as young as they both were for most of Wendy’s travel, Wendy’s absences undoubtedly left an indelible impression. So, let’s address this. To them. For their mom.
It could have been easy to misconstrue what was a priority for Wendy, her love for her friends, travel and her commitment to her job could have easily been interpreted as taking precedence in her life. But for anyone who thought that, including her daughters, you would be wrong. For Wendy, literally to the last day of her earthly presence, Danielle and Makayla have been her driving force. She did what she did with the rest of us. But she did what she did for them. To make them proud. To give them hope. To help them dream. To show them promise. To make them believe. Her pride in her daughters and her tiger-like protectiveness and defense of them were unabashed. And, impressive. In fact, as we are now all able to recognize as having been nearing the end of her time here, for Wendy, thought of her daughters and how they would be “after” was all-consuming. I know she spoke with me about it constantly and I am certain my sisters, mummy, A. Yvonne, Claire, Ossie, Dawn, Pauline, Claudia, Ingrid, Marjorie, Nicky, Ricky, Arthur, Vin, A. Patsy and so many of you could attest to the same. So, Dans and Kayla as you move through grief, processing and questioning life, your place in and the meaning of it, scratch questioning your mom’s love for each of you off your list. Rest assured in the knowledge that she loves you. She loves you first and she loves you best.
Wendy wanted to publish a coffee table book and in fact, we had started to work on the text for it. It was one of many projects she had planned and, it was to be called, From Caadp to Chemo. This coffee table book was to depict some of Wendy’s favorite places, favorite people – all of you were to be in it – and favorite quotes. We hadn’t finished it. But, it was the event she had planned for tomorrow that was to be the most special. Wendy wanted to have us all get together one last time. She truly struggled with this pandemic because she recognized that, given her prognosis, her curtain call would happen during a time when coming together would be severely impacted. So, she called me one day and asked “Sis, would it be weird if we were to plan a Zoom of my funeral while I am still here?” And of course, because she was speaking with an equally “extra” sister who is also an event planner, my immediate response was “Not at all! Let’s do it.” So, that was to have been tomorrow. And, it was to have been called, Sentebale, which means, Forget me Not. As if we could…
So, in her absence, let me share Wendy’s intention. Wendy knew that this time would be harder on us than it was on her – in fact, I often reminded her, when I was crying and she was calm, that she was the only one medicated! But, though Wendy had wished there was more time with her daughters, parents, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles partner and so so so many loyal and wonderful friends, she was peaceful in having lived a life chock full of most of what she dreamed. She was happy. So what she wanted as she approached the end of her earthly time with us all, was to reassure us of that and, to check on us. She wanted us to know if our tears were for her, they weren’t necessary and if they were for us, they weren’t discredited. You see, Wendy understood love. She understood that the depth of our grief mirrored the magnitude of our love and she wanted us to know she felt it.
In the past few months, she and I spoke of many things and, as we planned the details for this moment and beyond I was sure to let her know I thought this the stupidest event she had ever planned. I told her how difficult this moment and every moment moving forward was going to be and that I wouldn’t know how to fill the few times each day we would usually speak. I told her that my heart had started breaking even before she left… in anticipation. I told her how scared I was of life without her and I told her how much I loved her. Because I too am a planner, I started keeping notes of some of the funny or sentimental things she would say so that I would be able to remind either she or me if necessary. But mostly, I tried everything to make her stay: blackmail, money, plans, mallowmars and tears. I tried, because I was thinking of all of us and how our lives would be stripped of color, excitement, some crisis to handle and the next adventure, if she left us. I tried. I tried because the Wiltshire Sisters requires four sisters. It does. I tried because a parent should never ever bury a child and because her daughters still need her. I tried because I have a folder-full of plans and events that it would be a shame if the world weren’t privy to them. I tried because at fifty-eight, there should still be so so much more for her to do and I tried because in my estimation, there are sooooooooo many other people more deserving to go first (just look at the White House).
But one day, thankfully, I stopped. I stopped and I looked at my sister and I listened to her. And what I saw, was that my fear for what her leaving would do to me and all of you was stripping her of the peace she needed to gracefully allow God’s will to be done. I recognized that if I truly love and trust God as I say, then I must trust in the midst of this storm, that He knows best. I must trust that He knows that all of us need an angel. I must trust in the comfort of knowing that even as according to our understanding, a parent burying a child goes against the correct order of things, Mummy’s care, patience and love were just what Wendy needed to transition out of this realm with the same peace with which she entered it. I must trust in the knowledge that our sister Wendy, that your daughter Mummy, that your daughter Daddy, that your mom Dans and Kayla, that your aunt Neesie, Nona, Noah, Ty and Riley, that your niece A. Patsy, A. Yvonne, Claire and Ossie and all the others, that your cousin, Cousin, Michelle, Gerry, Gillian, Jem, Steve, Andy, Kimberly, Gary, Candace, that your partner Jonesy, that your-sister-in law Peggie, Gloria and brother-in-law Avery, that your friend Dawn, Ainsworth, Arthur, Brenda, Claudia, David, Dazz, Derek, Elizabeth, Fitzroy, Geddes, Ingrid, Jeanette, Lawrence, Marjorie, Michelle, Nicky, Nozi, Pauline, Ricky, Vin, and that your relative Michael, Colin, Helen, Denise, Carol, Amanda and Kristi, is at peace, basking in a job very well done and looking upon us at this very moment with her signature smile. So, as I stand here for my sister and on behalf of the entire Wiltshire clan, we must first thank God for the gift and the grace that was Wendy and we thank you all for the part you have played in making her life the absolute wonder it had been. And I know that not simply because I had seen it, but because she told me. In closing, I leave you with this: Nooney (that’s what we call her), we share a love of quotes, so I honor you with this from Maya Angelou “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” For you, Sentebale is in the bag. We love you.