Carissa. She is and always will be my greatest inspiration and number one hero. She is my sister. She died a few years ago. I had the privilege of giving the eulogy at her funeral. Some of those words have been intermingled here.
Carissa had Down’s Syndrome, but she never once let that define her. In fact, the only word that could ever define her is love. Her funeral offered indisputable evidence of just how far her love for others had spread. The room in which we held her services seated 750 or so. Many had to stand along the walls or listen from the hallways because there simply weren’t enough seats for everyone. I have been to many funerals. I have never seen one with that kind of turn-out.
I remember struggling to put her life into words that could accurately express who she was and what she was about. Truth be told, Carissa’s shining life and example really couldn’t be expressed over a podium. It had to be felt, experienced, and witnessed, as so many people there in attendance knew.
You see, Carissa understood love probably more than I or most of us will ever be able. She could feel inside a person’s soul and somehow, could even feel the pains of a person’s heart. If that person’s heart was hurting more than usual, she could sense it, and she would do what she did best, which was to help start the healing. It usually started with a question of concern, then a big smile, then one of her big Carissa Bear Hugs. Then, the verbal praises would start and not let up until she sensed that your heart was at peace again, even if it took weeks or months. She would laugh, and tell you repeatedly over the course of days, “You’re my favorite.” “I love you this much.” “Hello my beautiful.” “Hello my handsome.” And other wonderful things. Then, when you would leave, she’d get out a notebook and her big bag of colorful pens, and write you a letter or two, telling you how much she loved you, how much she loved God, and how much He loved you. You see, Carissa believed in God’s love for us, and she never hesitated to share it.
Carissa was not bound by pride, ego, time, or selfishness, a few of the struggles that many of us so naturally have. She was never too busy to visit or care for the sick. She never received an assignment in her church, school, or community that she didn’t complete with 100% vigor. She never thought herself better than another human being, ever.
Think about that.
She never thought herself better than another human being.
How many of us can say that?
She never hid her talents from the world. She never withheld her praise from anyone. She never compromised her values. She never believed that there was a reason to not show her love to others, and certainly never believed there was a reason for others not to love her.
Carissa taught me a lot of things. She taught a lot of people a lot of things. Promptly forgive those who have wronged you. Sing with all of your heart, even when you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Stop caring so much what you look like. Stop caring so much what people will think of what you say and do. Serve your neighbor and buoy those who are down. Stop worrying about what others will think! Worry about what is right, and act in such a way. Forget about your job for awhile. Forget about your sports games and time-wasting habits. Look around you and find someone who could use a “Carissa bear hug”, or maybe just a warm plate of cookies. Don’t judge others. Smile and introduce yourself to strangers. Express your love for all in all times and all places. Yes, these are lessons that Carissa taught us all. These are the lessons that Carissa taught me.
And, for some reason her time here suddenly ended. I don’t know why. I do remember holding her hand just before she died and whispering, “I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to be like you.” Her limp body remained without response, buried beneath wires and machines. “Carissa, are you okay to go? It’s okay if you need to go.” Suddenly her hand squeezed mine with the same love and strength of one of her famous hugs, and a warm comfort rushed over my entire body. Even in her final moments she made sure to comfort someone else. I know that many others had similar experiences that day.
Carissa was okay to go. She had no regrets and no reason to fear. She left this world as perfect as when she came into it. She was okay to go.
She truly was a Saturday’s Hero.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
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