My sister-in-law, Kristin Zummo, has passed away. It was swift, unexpected, and heart-breaking. From the moment I met her she was so incredibly kind. She frequently texted and Facebook messaged, and even helped out at my book launches. She always made sure I knew she was behind me and did everything she could to help. What a sister-in-law!
My life has always been the inspiration for my stories. Kristin’s life, and now her death, has also inspired my literary world. In my latest book, Weun Academy, a great tragedy befalls the school. Many students and even teachers are killed. My reflections on Kristin’s death made me revisit the memorial scene. Fighting through my own tears, D’abar’s speech began to rewrite itself. The following not only speaks to my fictitious characters, but to me and the others Kristin left behind:
“We are gathered here today to remember and pay homage to our fallen family members. The tragic loss of life, especially for those so young, is unconscionable. There’s nothing to say to rationalize such events, nothing to take away the pain of their loss. While their corporeal journey has ended, ours has become overcast with a cloud of confusion and sorrow.
“While death is life’s harshest lesson, there is a silver lining to this cloud. We are forced to reflect on the things our lost family members brought into our lives. We take stock on the ways they touched our hearts, saw the world, and forever changed us by their example.
“But the lessons don’t stop there. Death reminds us just how precious and fleeting life is. It exposes our mortal fragility and bodily limitations, while at the same time encouraging us to live life to the fullest and without delay. As a result, we challenge the very substance and direction of our own lives.
“Right now you may be feeling pangs of anger, sadness, and regret. Perhaps you should have spent more time with them, or talked more often. Maybe they never knew how you felt, or understood just how much you appreciated all the things they did. Maybe you didn’t return a call, or a favor. Or maybe you just wish you could have gotten to know them better. Such feelings are normal. It’s called guilt, and we all suffer it. It’s the result of us being imperfect beings: ones that make assumptions about our lives and opportunities, and about the time we have to do the things that don’t quite land high enough on our long list of priorities. It’s important to face this, to acknowledge whatever we should have done better, and to not repeat our mistakes again.
“I will never say death is a good thing, but it makes us examine things we’ve taken for granted, and helps us to become better people–if we’re willing to change. Don’t make our loved ones loss be for nothing. Enshrine them in your heart. Feel what you must, then learn and grow. Become the best you, and above all–live your incredible life.”
Thank you for all you inspired in my life Kristin. You were an amazing sister-in-law. My heart aches, and I will miss you greatly. I already miss your smile and beautiful heart. Rest in peace.