This First Birthday

Today, October 28th, 2015 marks the first time I will not be able to call my sister and wish her a happy birthday. I feel as if I need to do something meaningful to honour and celebrate her. I also feel as if I’d rather just jump to October 29th and pretend October 28th no longer exists. My own kind of leap year.

In truth, I don’t have a lot of energy left in me to talk about this. I’ve been working diligently to catch up on the months and months of work that has piled up since March, not to mention just, you know, getting through each day without being sad.

But I do want to honour my sister and I want to share how loved she was…and how loved I was by her. I’ve decided to post a few photos and to share with you the speech I made at her celebration of life that was held at the Nanoose Bay community center where she volunteered for decades. There were other speakers that day and I wish I’d had the foresight to record their words. You’ll just have to trust me when I say they were beautiful.

I left in all the boring thank you’s. Feel free to skip over them but I am still thankful and will be so forever.

Well over 200 people attended on that day and the staff of the community center flew the flag at half-mast. That alone says so much about how many people Kelly touched and what an impact she had in her community. I can think of few better legacies to leave than community service.

Happy birthday, big sister. I sure miss you.

Kristene’s speech – Kelly Collins, A Celebration of Life, June 2015

Hello everyone and thank you so much for coming today to celebrate the life of Kelly Collins. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Kristene, Kelly’s sister. It’s my great honour to host this celebration and to speak on behalf of my family about the woman we all loved so much.

It means a lot to see so many of Kelly’s friends and family here. I know that some of you traveled far to get here on very short notice—thank you so much, Kelly would have been very happy. I also want to take a moment to thank the good people of Costco who donated all the platters of food and who have been so supportive and kind ever since Kelly first went into the hospital. I’d also like to thank Eve Flynn and the people of the Nanoose Place Community Center for donating this space for us to use, helping us set up and providing coffee and tea. Your generosity has made a huge difference during this tough time.

There were a lot of other people who helped out while Kelly was in the hospital and I’m sure I’ll miss some names, for which I am very sorry. Please know that every bit of kindness and generosity was dearly appreciated. I want to offer sincere thanks to the following people and organizations who helped cover costs while Kelly was in the hospital:

The Hudson’s Bay Company.

The Nanoose Bay Lions Club.

Ray’s mother Joyce and his brother Douglas.

All of Ray’s friends at Costco.

All the people who came over to visit Kelly while she was alone on the mainland, but especially her friend Dee Touchet, who was with Kelly and Ray right up until 11pm on June 7th.

Kelly’s employers and friends at Home Outfitters

Rod & Karen Dovey, Carla and Emile Bowdin for looking after Kelly’s grand daughter.

Melody McDonnel, Kelly’s HR from Home Outfitters.

Our uncle John Marrington, for taking Kelly into his home while she was an outpatient  in Vancouver.

I would like to thank my mother-in-law Nancy for sharing her home during this time and for the shoulder to cry on. Also my brother and sister, Glen and LeAnna, for coming over to the island to be with me and help with this event.

And one last special thank you to all the hardworking nurses who kept Kelly as comfortable as they could, both in Vancouver and Nanaimo.

There are a few people we have scheduled to speak today and then after that I’ll be opening the microphone to anyone who would like to say a few words. If you’d like to share something about Kelly, please don’t be shy. We’re all friends here and we have lots of Kleenex.

But first I would like to tell you a little bit about Kelly and what made her so special to me.

Kelly Marrington baby photo

Kelly Marrington

Kelly was born in Vancouver in 1959, to Robert and Lorraine Marrington. I wish I could tell you more about the early years of her life but I wouldn’t appear on the scene until ten years later. I do know that she was a happy, spirited young girl. She loved to swim, loved animals, and frequently kept Mom and Dad on their toes.

I was adopted into the Marrington family when I was 22 days old. Kelly took her new role as big sister very seriously, in fact the task of naming me had been given exclusively to her. She wanted my name to have a K, like hers, and she didn’t want it spelled the same as all the other Christine’s, so she gave me an e instead of the second i, thereby guaranteeing that I would spend the rest of my life spelling my name out to every new person I met. Some people might have thought this was strange but that’s how Kelly was. When she knew what she wanted that was it. Only the brave or foolish would try to argue with her.

Kelly and Kristene Marrington

Kelly welcomes her adopted sister

With ten years between us, we didn’t have the same friends but Kelly found plenty of excuses to bring her little sister along whenever she could. From what I remember, what I’ve been told and what I’ve seen in photos, I’m convinced that she must have thought that I was the best doll ever. Kelly taught me how to blow bubbles with my gum and how to swim. She let me hide behind her when we watched scary movies and snuck me free ice cream cones when she worked at the Tastee Freeze in North Delta. In her late teens, she became quite entrepreneurial. Looking back, five dollars a week was pretty cheap for maid service even when your little sister is the maid.

Kelly always wore her heart on her sleeve. You never had to guess where you stood with her or how she felt. Hugs and kisses were offered freely and in all our years growing up I never doubted for even a second that she thought I was the sun and the moon and the stars. It took me a few decades to realize how lucky I was to know that there was always one person, no matter what, who would be standing in my corner. She gave her love fully, completely, and generously, whether or not I deserved it in the moment. I suspect I am not the only person who can say that.

My sister provided another valuable service to me: she broke in our parents. I know you’re only supposed to say nice things about people at a celebration of life but truth be told, my sister had a bit of a wild streak. No sooner had the teen battles ceased in our house then Kelly announced she was moving to Vancouver Island. The Island?! Why not move to the moon, it seemed just about as far away! But, like I said, when Kelly made up her mind…stand back. So she moved to Nanaimo to work at Woodwards and after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, Mom and Dad finally adjusted to the fact that their daughter now lived with the heathens at the end of the earth.

THEN!

Kelly and Ray Collins

Kelly and Ray Collins

She met a man on that island. And they moved in together! They weren’t even married! I know that doesn’t mean anything to anyone under thirty but this was quite the scandal even in the early 1980’s. Once again, Kelly had stirred up the Marrington household and there were many heated discussions about this “Ray person”. Who was this Casanova who was leading their innocent young daughter down the garden path?

But, once more, Kelly had made up her mind. This Ray was the man she loved and that was that. A few years later they walked down the aisle, made it all official, and peace was restored. (It also helped when Ray bought a boat to take his new father-in-law out fishing in). I was thirteen when Kelly and Ray married. And now that my wild older sister had moved to the end of the earth to live in sin with some stranger who drove a muscle car and had long hair, there was pretty much nothing I could do to shock Mom and Dad. I was forever in her debt.

I asked Ray if he had any special memories of Kelly he wanted to share. His answer was “Every day. 34 years wasn’t enough.” I second that.

Kelly adored holidays and Christmas was Kelly’s favourite time of year. At seven years old I can remember being woken up VERY early on Christmas morning to my sister jumping on my bed. “Wake up! Wake up! Santa’s been here! Let’s go get our stockings!” Remember, this was a teenager waking up a seven year old, who would have happily slept another hour. That is how excited Kelly was at Xmas. Then there was the Easter she decided, for a change, to hide chocolate Easter eggs all around the house. And I do mean ALL AROUND THE HOUSE. I’m sure Kelly thought tucking chocolate eggs into my parents’ heated waterbed was a very clever idea at the time… I’m not sure Mom ever got the chocolate stains out of the sheets. Two years later, we were still finding those eggs.

Kelly dad and sean

Kelly with her son Sean and her dad, Bob

Christmas and Easter paled in comparison, however, to the births of Kelly’s two sons, Sean and Scott. She was so happy and so proud to be a mom. However delighted she had been to welcome her baby sister, times that by a million with her boys. No matter how old they were, they would always be her babies.

Kelly, Ray and Scott Collins

Kelly and Ray with their son Scott

I want to say that I was as joyful as Kelly about the arrival of my first nephew Sean but I have to confess that I wasn’t happy about being bumped out as the official Baby of the Family. Christmas was the worst because the mountain of gifts that had once been mine now went to the baby. Of course, this was the perfect opportunity for my mischievous sister to have some fun. Christmas morning arrived. The presents were doled out. I looked at my small pile then looked over at Sean’s mountain and whined about how the baby gets all the presents now. “Oh, can you go look behind the curtains by the stereo,” Kelly said. “I think there’s more presents for Sean there.” Grudgingly, I did as asked. I pulled back the curtains, and there was a brand new set of ski gear Kelly had bought for me. She never let me live that down.

Kelly Collins in Baja

Kelly and the whole gang in San Basilio, Baja California. Mexico

Okay, those two boys eventually grew on me, but to Kelly they were her world. She drove them to soccer, baseball, martial arts, fussed over Halloween costumes, fought over bedtime…SCOTT…herded them on and off the ferry to visit their grandparents, and even flew all the way to a tiny beach in Baja, Mexico so that they could spend Christmas with their crazy Aunty Kris and Uncle Fred. She might have grumbled about them once or twice but she would not tolerate criticism from others. Her boys were perfect to her and always would be.

I didn’t spend a lot of time with Kelly here on the island but whenever I came to visit I was amazed at how many people knew her. She loved her community. She loved the people she worked with. She loved how at home she felt. So many of you here today were as much her family as I was.

Kelly Collins and Bob Marrington

Kelly at Dad’s 70th birthday party

Kelly and I were very different people. We didn’t always see eye to eye but we always saw heart to heart. I am so happy that we became friends in our adult years, which was mostly her doing, make no mistake. Every person has something to teach us if we’re willing to learn. My sister taught me that it’s okay to cry—whether out of joy or sorrow. She taught me that family does matter. She taught me that our differences are not as important as our similarities. She taught me that success isn’t measured by the clothes you wear or the car you drive but by the love you give and the friends you earn. She taught me that sisters are forever.

Oh, and Kelly taught my husband Fred to play Bingo, which was about the funniest thing I have seen in a good long time.

Kelly Collins fishing

Kelly lands a big one in Ucluelet, BC

I am so proud to stand here today and tell you all about my beautiful sister, Ray’s loving wife, Sean and Scott’s proud mother, Bob’s baby girl, and Avaline’s doting grandmother. And I want to thank you all again for coming out to share this day with us. I hope that you will take the time to talk to someone new today, and share a little bit of Kelly with each other. We live on through our stories and hers deserves to be remembered.

Once again, on behalf of myself, Ray, Sean, Scott and Bob, thank you all for coming and thank you for being a part of Kelly’s wonderful life. I’d like to leave you with a quote from the late Jay Lake that I think Kelly would have loved:

Kindness is highly underrated. We spend so much time aspiring to or defending our place in life, from how we behave in traffic to how we treat people in the workplace, at home and out in the world. If everybody tapped the brakes on their immediate needs long enough to be kind and pleasant to other people, the world would be a much better place. Sappy? Yes. True? Yes.

The hardest part is being kind to people you don’t particularly want to be kind to. Or being kind at moments when you don’t have much kindness left in you, for whatever reason.

Be kind. It costs you nothing and makes the world around you a better place.

Flag at half mast for Kelly Collins

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