Sunday, December 4, 2011

For Risa. September 31st.

It doesn't exist.

There's no such thing as the 31st of September.
So when I say that it's been six months since Risa left, I feel a little disappointed with September for not giving her that extra day, which I think she deserves. Was it six months yesterday? Or is it today, the first of October? If we're being specific, it's been one hundred and eighty-four days, which is more than half of three hundred and sixty-five. Was it six months on Thursday, then?
Somehow, one hundred and eighty-four days seems to be a more accurate measurement than six months.
I'm not the only one who's missed her, Laughter, for one hundred and eighty-four days,
Nor am I the only one to ache, for one hundred and eighty-four days, for her infectious smile and bright eyes, her poise, and her kindness.

How do you express the infinite expanse of a life in just a few words? May I be so bold as to assert that it's an impossible feat? The more language I use to describe Risa, the less adequate the words feel. And, unfortunately, the more people I meet who haven't known Risa, the harder it becomes to capture her essence with mere linguistic description. The best I can do is to borrow a passage from Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables:

     "Have you ever imagined what it must feel like to be divinely beautiful?"

     "Well now, no, I haven't," confessed Matthew ingenuously.

      "I have, often.  Which would you rather be if you had the choice--divinely beautiful or dazzlingly         clever or angelically good?"

     "Well now, I--I don't know exactly."

     "Neither do I.  I can never decide."

I've lost track of the number of times Railee and I discussed our respective approaches to this conundrum. We still haven't exhausted the subject, but whenever it comes around again, I think of Risa. Risa was a complete portrait of beauty, wisdom, and goodness, and if I may add, integrity, faith, virtue, courage, charity, and so much more.
I am grateful to count myself among the few and infinitely blessed to have known and befriended Risa Whitaker before she quickly finished her work among us. To know her was to be changed by her. And the truest way I've found to express her influence and legacy is to reflect back to others the light I gleaned from her over the years. 'Risa' means 'laughter', and Risa means 'light'. Of all the lives she's touched, there isn't a single one that Risa hasn't changed.

Not one of those one hundred and eighty-four days has passed that I haven't thought of Risa and remembered silly and important things like how she used to dot her 'i's with circles, how she literally couldn't hurt a fly, and how we used to tease her for crossing her eyes when she ate with a fork.

Oh, how I miss her.
And oh, how I marvel at the joy she continues to spread.

This is my tribute to Risa -wholly inadequate and the best I can do.


  1. I guess her beauty really was too divine for this world.

    This was so wonderful to read, Megan. Thank you for so eloquently expressing your impressions of my sweet sister.

  2. I stood and bore my testimony last Sunday one full year from the time Risa stood at that pulpit bearing her testimony. It was her last public expression of her love for the Lord and us. She was feeling good that day and I was hoping and thinking that she was going to get better. We didn't know that she would be gone in two months. The spirit and strength of spirit that surrounded her got stronger as she got weaker.
    The week before she died, Risa knew her liver had shut down, and it would only be a few days left in this life. She wanted to go see the ocean one last time with the family around her. We found a nice big house we rented that overlooked Cannon Beach. I cherish those moments there with all our children and Robins parents and some dear friends that stopped by. Amid the pain and weakness and consciousness shutting down, Risa had words of gratitude, wisdom and counsel, for those who needed it. I found myself alone, sitting with her on the bed, and I said "Risa this isn't fair that you should go". She reached over and gave me long hug and said "Dad, it is fair, and I have been waiting for you and others to accept it. Dad, I love you so very much. You are the best dad I could ever ask for. I will be there watching over you and mom." We hugged and cried on each other. That is when I let go and accepted her plea. We went home the next day and 3 days later our beautiful, lovely, spiritually strong girl took wings.
    Risa has been making good on her promise. I have felt her loving presence enveloped around my shoulders many times. I have felt her thoughts and love and happiness from her new vantage point. She is so very happy and loves her life there with grandma Whitaker and countless others. She insists that one of her first labors of love is to be a guardian angel over mom and dad. So many times I am talking with someone and I will feel Risa saying "Dad, tell them about me and bear your testimony about my life and the gospel."
    I know that moments following her death, Risa was welcomed by many many loved ones and then she literally spent some amazing time in the arms of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It was something that she had yearned for and she wanted me to know that it is possible for any of us to have that same welcome home if we desire it and are worthy of it.
    I am honored and blessed to have been Risa's dad and I hope to live in a way that I may be worthy to see and live with her again over there.