Life Lessons & Vents

Eulogy For Kristen Jolee Gilson

How do you begin to write a 5 minute speech that should encompass a person’s entire personality, their entire life?  Being asked to read a eulogy is the biggest honor, but for me was also extremely nerve racking.  Though difficult to share, I wanted to leave this on my blog for anyone who is struggling to find the right words.

As long as I can I will look at this world for both of us.  As long as I can I will laugh with the birds, I will sing with the flowers, I will pray to the stars, for both of us.

I am so honored to stand up here and have the opportunity to commemorate the life of Kristen Jolee Gilson.  In her brief time on earth she has been an exemplary friend, cousin, niece, sister and daughter; and I know her spirit will reside deep inside every single person in this church long after this memorial service has ended.

While trying to gain inspiration for the eulogy, I leafed through album after album of Kirsten and me growing up together.  Some of the pictures made me smile, others tear up, but one in particular really moved me.  It was a picture of my mom and Janis standing back to back, their pregnant bellies swollen over their 80s light wash jeans and purple wind breakers.  Kristen was more than my cousin, she was my very first friend; the closest I will ever have to a sister.  It’s hard to believe that she was only with us for 24 years when you consider all the fond memories, up-roaring laughter, and touching moments we have all shared with her.

On December 22, 1987, Kristen popped into the arms of the two most doting and loving parents anyone could ask for.  A princess in the complete definition of the word, there was nothing Richie and Janis wouldn’t do to make their little angel smile.  After enjoying a few blissful years of being an only child, Kara was born.  Now, one would think that princess Kristen would have been threatened by this new attention seeking sibling, but quite the contrary.  I truthfully believe that Kristen thought her parents had simply given her a new toy — except this one she could play with relentlessly and it never even needed new batteries!  I have distinct memories wishing I had a Kara to idolize me and comply with my imaginations every whim. Those were the days.

Kara survived being Kristen’s sidekick, but not without a few serious bite and pinch battle wounds.  In all seriousness, Kara was so lucky to have a sister like Kristen to look up to; someone who was so full of life, so vibrant and determined.  Kristen, with her big red curls and curious eyes, was, even at the youngest age, so full of confidence and pride; and while she did boss Kara around unceasingly, Kristen made sure that no one else even thought about picking on her little sister.While she would never have admitted it, Kristen knew she was the real lucky one to have a sister as loving and supportive as Kara.  The girls enjoyed  joyful childhoods on Christopher Drive, with winters filled with skiing trips and summers spent on the beaches of Cape Cod.

A perfectionist from birth, I was always amazed by how particular Kristen was, everything so organized and in its place, she never even had one chipped nail!   I mean at thanksgiving, she was the only person I know who would pile her plate with only salad and turkey, no stuffing, no veggies, just turkey and salad.  Now that’s decisive.  She knew what she wanted and how she wanted it.  Kristen truly was her own person, and no one can argue that.  She wasn’t concerned with how other’s viewed her; she radiated a remarkable self assurance way beyond her years.

With her mother’s compassion and her father’s determination, Kristen was very passionate about life, even as a young girl.  She had so much love to give and share — even her cats were pampered and doted on more than most parents spoil their children!  I always looked forward to seeing Kristen the most at family gatherings because she was so interested in me and what was happening with my life.  She always remembered my current boyfriends name, always asked how my friends were doing, always wanted to see what my parents got me for Christmas.  She made me feel so special and so important, and I absolutely relished in it.

One memory in particular that exemplifies Kristen’s altruism has always stuck with me.  At Richie’s wake I was so nervous to see Kristen and Kara, and so worried I wouldn’t say the right thing.  When I finally was face to face with Kristen I froze and couldn’t speak.  Instead of letting me suffer, Kristen, at her own father’s wake, consoled ME, and asked ME asked me how I was doing.  I was so taken aback. Here I was blubbering, while Kristen was so strong and so kind.

She truly had the most unconditional love for her family.  She couldn’t wait for holiday parties and would text me about Easter before I even packed up the Christmas decorations.  I know she equally looked forward to time with the Peterson’s, and in particular her aunt Karen who shared her love for fashion and style.

As we all know, Kristen had to have the latest and best trends, her makeup always perfectly applied, her curls perfectly smoothed.   She didn’t settle for knockoffs and wouldn’t hesitate to roll her eyes at my incompetence for recognizing brand names.  Really, Kristen didn’t settle for anything.  She dreamed of a life of luxury and was determined to live it.

Kristen is in all of my happy childhood memories, and I cannot believe I have to go into the future without her.  Her death came as such a sudden shock that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sit down at Thanksgiving dinner and not be waiting for her to plop down next to me with her plate of turkey.  I’m going to miss her outlandish observations, her poking fun with Christine and Jeannie, her infectious laugh.   I was so excited to get married and have children together, to stand back to back with our bellies swollen.  To look back years down the road and giggle at our outfits and hair styles.    But I realize now, that is just me being selfish.  Kristen is finally at peace and without pain, relaxing in heaven’s nail salon with her aunt Karen.  Kristen will still always be in my future, just not in the physical sense.  But now that I have her careful eye watching me, I have a lot of pressure to really live my life to the fullest- to really make her proud.

I know Kristen was greeted by the biggest smack on the lips like only Richie can give, followed by an eternity of bear hugs.  Both the Petersons and the Gilsons have suffered so much loss over the past few years, but now they are greeting Kristen graciously in heaven, and patiently waiting for us to one day join them.  I’m sure Kristen’s rolling her eyes right now, saying I shouldn’t go on and on and probably thinking I should have accessorized better.  Well Kristen, I will be looking forward to the lavish ..the biggest and best..  family gathering you must be planning for us when we all finally sit down together again in heaven.

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