Friday, June 11, 2010

Memorial Talk

A Mother's Tribute to Her Daughter
Given at the Memorial Service for Julie Ann Christiansen

Julie, my sweet Julie. Julie, who can say your name without adding sweet to it? Who can think of you without thinking of your kindness, your goodness, your beauty, both inside and out? Who can think of you without seeing those bright, intelligent, sparkling blue eyes? Who can think of you without wanting to reach out and get a handful of that thick, beautiful mass of sweet smelling, soft curls? Who will ever forget how wonderful your hair smelled, how soft your touch felt or how stunning you looked in just about anything you wore.

Julie, my free-spirit with a soul that was as rich, full-bodied and interesting as her hair, was born on a spring morning on April 8, 1976. My springtime pixie, born while the daffodils were in full bloom entered this life like a fire cracker during the bicentennial year of our nation’s birth. She seemed to be all sunshine and laughter as a young child. I will carry with me always the image I have of her at about four years old. She was in the backyard of our home trying to launch a small paper kite that she had made. I still see the look of freedom, laughter and joy as you ran back and forth across the lawn in a futile attempt to get the kite in the air.

Julie was a busy child. She would think of all kinds of things to do to keep herself busy such as taking on projects of collecting rocks from the backyard, painting them with her watercolor set and then attempting to sell the fruits of her labor to the neighbors as she and Jon made their way around the block. Her beautiful, hand painted rainbow rock is one of my most prized possessions. It is always next to me on my desk or reading table.

Julie’s unique genetic makeup gave her the features that we could all see and admire: beautiful eyes, amazing hair, a beautiful, lean athletic body, a strong Christiansen nose, a brilliant mind, a need to read and express herself through writing, and kind, sweet spirit. Because of her genetic makeup, she also suffered from a disease that first began to manifest itself in her late teen years. Depression began to rob her of her joy and became the demon that she would battle in many different ways for the rest of her life.

Julie, the reader, the seeker of answers and understanding, shared a book with me a number of years ago. She asked me to read Kay Redfield Jamison An Unquiet Mind because she said it helped her to understand her illness. Recently, she also recommended that I read Nothing Was The Same, Jamison’s latest book about her own experience with grief after the death of her husband. In this book, Jamison said that during grief she experienced restlessness in everything she did. I know that we as a family have felt this restlessness these past few days, but, Jamison states that “in grief the restlessness was not the unbearable agitation of mania, but instead, an anxious fluttering that attached itself to my grief...I walked and walked in an attempt to alloy that disquiet.”

In order to better understand Julie’s pain, I have found comfort in reading what Jamison states is the difference between grief and depression. She states in Nothing Was The Same, “Grief conspires to ensure that it will in time wear itself out. Unlike depression, it acts to preserve the self. Depression is malignant, indiscriminately destructive.” “Time alone during grief proved restorative. Time alone during depression is dangerous.” “Depression, less comprehensible than grief, does not always elicit the same ritual kindness. Grief does not alienate the way depression does.”

Unfortunately, Julie at times forgot some of Jamison’s advice: “We are each an island...Treat your island with regard. Do not let it go to weed; do not give it over to anyone else. Understand the possibilities. Know the dangers. Keep away the ungenerous and unkind.”

As a young child, Julie once wore her new cross necklace to school one day. The teacher asked her why she was wearing it. She said, “because I love Jesus.” Over the years, life events and depression robbed Julie of her simple faith, but the Good Shepherd never forgets His sheep.

In the early morning hours of Saturday, May 29, 2010, My sweet Jesus, who saw Julie’s pain and saw that her attempts to relieve that pain were only making her disease worse, gathered my sweet Julie in His arms and took her home to be with Him.

Julie was a gift and a treasure to me and to all of her family. We loved her more than words can ever express. She was the centerpiece of many gatherings, even though those gatherings could sometimes overwhelm her. She was as crazy, wild and funny as any one of her other siblings. She had wonderful friends who loved and enjoyed her. Thankfully, she also had Jason in her life. Thank you Jason for all you have done for us and for Julie. She knew that you loved her and were her best friend. We will be forever grateful that you are a part of our family.

As we all gathered together this week, finally meeting as a family at Amy’s, I found myself doing what I always have, counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, making sure I had all my chicks accounted for. I will never be able to get over the sorrow that I will feel when Julie is not with us. I will miss her arm around my shoulder when she would say, “Hi Momacita.” I will miss her calls when she would say, “Mom” and I would answer with “Julie.” I will miss her wisdom and her ability to help me see things in a different and better way. I will be eternally grateful that I was given the gift of her life. She was a gift, a treasure and my Jewel. I am at peace knowing that she is at peace and will no longer suffer any pain.