We're standing on a gentle, grassy slope in Orefield. It's a warm spring day; a day made for children to laugh and play, their voices ringing across the open fields.
It's the kind of day my sister Kay would love. She'd be frolicking with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, making each one feel like the best, most talented, most special and loved child in the world.
But the children aren't laughing today as we stand in Jordan Lutheran Church Cemetery. Their little faces are somber, and they sit quietly, waiting for the grown-ups to stop weeping.
Kay, who touched and changed innumerable lives in her roles as sister, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, aunt, teacher, mentor and role-model, is gone.
My sister was an elegant lady, and a fierce protector of children. We grew up in a home that had honed us to a sharp edge. The fire of that cauldron could have turned my sister hard and brittle. Instead, she became, like steel, strong, resilient and beautiful.
That strength gleamed bright in times of trouble. We still chuckle over our mother's memory of the time when, as a child, Kay beat the living daylights out of a neighborhood bully who was harassing her little brother Bob.
Kay died on April 2. Peacefully, in her sleep. I have to smile when I think of what she, with her dry sense of humor, would have to say about that.
At 72, she filled each precious day with the joy of grandchildren, the affection of her beloved dog Bear and cat Buttons, and her cozy, immaculate home with the fragrance of her remarkable baking.
With more energy than a hummingbird on espresso, Kay made Martha Stewart look like a slouch.
After retiring from Head Start in Carbon County and untold hours of volunteer work, she devoted her life to her husband Jim and her family.
Jim died in 2004, cutting short their plans to travel the country in their RV. But Kay understood that while you can't control the wind, you can adjust your sails. And so she channeled her grief into life. She sought out friends and spent as much time as she could with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
At her funeral, 10-year-old Alex lifted grieving spirits with his memories of going camping with his Grammy Kay, and of her being "a little upset" when she awoke in their RV one morning to discover that he had risen early and gone to visit a fellow camper.
Granddaughter Maddie, 13, wrote a poem, which her 12-year-old sister, KayKay, read. Their collaborative effort coalesced Kay's legacy into these beautiful lyrics:
Say Goodbye to You
You picked me up when I was on the ground
Kissed my head when I was sleeping sound
But something I couldn't do
Was say goodbye to you.
You always took me and held me close
Always told me that you loved me the most
When we were together…
Our moments lasted forever…
You always took me for a bite to eat
Or even sometimes an ice-cream treat
All the years that you made it through
You know I really miss you…
I wish you would have been there
In that stadium
I wish you would have been there
Watching her in front of that podium
But not all our wishes can come true
I guess we'll have to make do
The wish that I want to come true
Is that I could say goodbye to you.
Reach on down and I'll take your hand
Music will play
Just like a marching band
We would do what we wanted to
But that was only when I was with you
You were the roll to my rock
Always on time just like a grandfather clock
You make everyday the best day
And we love and miss you
Dear old Grammy Kay.