Getting To Know The Dead

by Richard Furleigh

“There’s two types of people in my life, those who I knew before Alyssa passed away, and those who never knew her.” – Kenneth Burleigh, father-in-law

Sadly, I fall into that second category. For those of you who may not know, Kristen had a sister, Alyssa. The car accident that took her life was on May 24th, 2009, and this reoccurring date along with her birthday are always an interesting time for me. I feel such a deep sympathy for Kristen and the Burleigh family, losing a family member is never easy, but at such a young age hits so much harder.

Her death at a young age also meant that, even though I met Kristen in college, I have never met her sister.

This person, who was such an intertwined part of my wife’s life, is someone I can never meet. It is an interesting thing that for someone I haven’t met, I can feel the impact she had on those around me. I hear stories of the fights Alyssa and my wife had about clothes when they were younger, hear the family recall working with her at Gone Bananas with them, and watch videos of her with my wife. There is a person who may no longer be here physically but still has a presence in Kristen’s, and in turn my, life.

In the beginning there was a detachment from it, the rituals that happen every year: balloon release, throwing flowers in the river. Over time they have started to mean more to me, and I think that is in no small part to the feeling that I, in some small way, have been getting to know her, the life she led. There is a delight now that I get in watching Adriana’s face light up as she begins to tell a story about Alyssa, or the way Kristen rolls her eyes in response to something Alyssa did years ago, or bringing our little star pouch with some of her ashes in it with us when we travel and leaving some wherever we go. Big and small these things have helped me come to terms with one of the oddest things I have ever attempted to wrap my head around; getting to know a dead person.

It would have been wonderful to have been able to meet her, to see if the stories live up, and to see what sort of relationship my wife and she would have had together. While that will never happen, I am extremely grateful and inspired by the people who loved her most, carrying on her spirit with them. It has allowed me some sense of who Alyssa was in such a peculiar situation.

For those who may know someone who has a similar situation I encourage you to not shy away from discussions about the departed, but to get to know them much in the same way I have learned to get to know Alyssa over the years. It can feel very odd and awkward at first, but there is a very real connection to be had to those people, and those that are telling you their stories will almost always appreciate a chance to relive the fond memories they have with them. Because it seems to me that those who may not be here physically still live on within those they have touched. Until next time Pengminions I leave you with Kristen’s rendition of Cam’s “Village” adapted in Alyssa’s memory.
https://www.smule.com/recording/cam-village/424533653_1167914524/frame

Alyssa Was Here!

alyssaIn the spirit of sharing more YOU, I thought I would share a song with you all that I changed some of the lyrics to. For those of you that do not know, my little sister, Alyssa, died in a car accident at the age of only 14 in 2009. It is one of those things you don’t really think about until it happens. For me especially, I was the older sibling and we were both so young, death would come for me most certainly before her, so I never imagined out living her/living without her.

The call I got from my dad that day was and could possibly be the shittiest phone call I ever receive. I was living 9 hours from home at the time and was asleep when he called. At the time my dad never really called often so him calling so late was weird. I still remember, in a sleepy fog, the rush of thoughts that came flooding in as he started to talk. It is amazing how fast our brains can move. He was quick and direct which is the kindest anyone could ask for in that situation. I was on the next flight home. I didn’t know what or how to think about everything and the tears just wouldn’t stop. After the initial shock, as time kept moving as it does, my thoughts and feelings seemed to settle on the frame of mind that yes she is physically gone but I and everyone she ever encountered that are still here she is a part of us; she lives on in the lives that we live.

Which brings me to this song. The original song is by the country artist Cam and the song is called Village. She wrote this song to her little sister telling her what she would want her to remember if she ever died. It was inspired by the death of a best friend’s older brother who was like an older brother to her also. When I first heard the song I simultaneously fell in love with it and hated it. I hated it because it didn’t reflect my reality. I am not the one who is gone so it didn’t sit right with me the way it was written but the message of everyone we know living on inside of us fills me up! So I rewrote the song and recorded it for those who miss her and need a reminder that though she is not here; she is still here. As the song says, “The world outside seems different” and it definitely is but I think we can bring her on our journey and allow her imprint on our heart to be shared with others in choosing to live our lives well.

Here is my version of the song Village you can listen to and the lyrics below.
Lyrics:
Hey there, don’t you dare believe them
She’d never leave us alone
I’d been watching over her like older siblings do
Since the day she was born
I know it feels like She’s been left behind
But She’s still around

‘Cause each whole heart’s a village
Everyone we love has built them
And she’d been working there herself
And that’s where she’ll be
Hope its a front-row seat
To watch us live our lives well

Streets lined with cottages and cabins
The skies are always blue
She spends her days with ghosts who all love us the most
But no one quite like she does
And there’ll be days we need her by our side
And that’s alright

‘Cause each whole heart’s a village
Everyone we love has built them
And she’d been working there herself
And that’s where she’ll be
Hope it’s a front-row seat
To watch us live our lives well

Oh man, the world outside seems different
But one thing will never change
She knows who we’ve been and who we’ll become
And Alyssa is here with us always

‘Cause each whole heart’s a village
Everyone we love has built them
And She’d been working there herself
And that’s where she’ll be
Hope it’s a front-row seat
To watch us live our lives well

Each whole heart’s a village
Everyone we love has built them
And she’d been working there herself
And that’s where she’ll be
Hope it’s a front-row seat
To watch us live our lives well
And She knows we’ll live our lives well

I hope my sharing all this encourages you to live your life to the fullest with the time you have on this Earth, whether or not you have lost someone dear our time is limited and we never know how. Maybe it even inspires you to spend more quality time with those that matter to you. The comments are yours to share what you wish; we love hearing from you. Til next time Pengminions!

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