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My Sister-in-Law Becky Porter Kimball

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Joseph Kimball and Becky Porter Kimball My sister Sarah died a little over a month ago from complications from a car accident. (See “My Sister Sarah.”) Now my sister-in-law Becky has died after a long battle with cancer. My brother Chris expresses my feelings better than I could. Below are Chris’s words:My sister-in-law Becky died Friday morning. The day and time is always a surprise, but the event was not. Becky was on palliative care already, having reached the end of all possible treatments for a cancer she fought for several years.We were 14. Seven children of Ed

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My Sister-in-Law Becky Porter Kimball

Joseph Kimball and Becky Porter Kimball

My sister Sarah died a little over a month ago from complications from a car accident. (See “My Sister Sarah.”) Now my sister-in-law Becky has died after a long battle with cancer. My brother Chris expresses my feelings better than I could. Below are Chris’s words:

My sister-in-law Becky died Friday morning. The day and time is always a surprise, but the event was not. Becky was on palliative care already, having reached the end of all possible treatments for a cancer she fought for several years.

We were 14. Seven children of Ed and Bee Kimball and seven spouses. With my youngest sister Sarah's death a month ago, and now Becky today, we are 12. The youngest two of the 14 were the first to go.

Jana Riess posted an article the other day about grief at a child's death, referring to Joy Jones' lack of outward grief or mourning in her Mormon General Conference talk in October 2017. I saw some thoughtful push-back to Jana's piece, arguing that we should be slow to judge and should allow everybody their own space and time to mourn. And that cuts both ways. Both about Jana's piece, and about Joy Jones in a position of authority suggesting a right way.

Here I am with my own:

First, I am deeply sorrowing. I feel a loss. Most of all, I am weighed down by a sense of finality. The last time. No more ever. I know all the "wonderful reunion in the hereafter" thoughts and meant-to-be-comforting statements. But at the moment, all issues of doctrine and belief aside, those thoughts are meaningless. They fall like a stone at my feet. The never again, final and forever, it's over, feeling is where I sit right now and I will not be comforted.

Second, I feel almost rage about "work it out in the eternities" move the Mormon Church has made. I don't want to hear about maybe someday. Instead, I have a bright awareness of the importance of now, here, this life.

As often happens, the poet-prophets say it best. Here, from Mary Oliver:

WHEN DEATH COMES

When death comes

like the hungry bear in autumn;

when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

when death comes

like the measle-pox

when death comes

like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:

what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything

as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,

and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common

as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,

tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something

precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

--Mary Oliver

The Avett brothers speak to some of the same in their "No Hard Feelings," imagining ways a person could make peace with dying. About the popularity of the song, Scott is recorded as saying "It's weird to be congratulated on the mining of the soul." I echo the sentiment, as I put these thoughts of mine out in the public.

Miles Kimball
Miles Kimball is Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan. Politically, Miles is an independent who grew up in an apolitical family. He holds many strong opinions—open to revision in response to cogent arguments—that do not line up neatly with either the Republican or Democratic Party.

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