As well acquainted as I am with grief, I’ve been blessed not to lose anyone close to me too soon since I lost my fiancé, Dana, thirty years ago.
I’m an only child, and my wife Shelly has just one sibling, her older sister Dina.
After painfully struggling for a few years with rare autoimmune diseases, we lost Dina last month at 55 years old in our hometown of Bakersfield, California.
To say it’s been tough on a lot of people is a huge understatement.
Dina lived a life that was completely dedicated to helping and serving others.
Since the mid-90’s she had over 400 foster kids come through her home.
Yes, 400 fosters kids!
I was always blown away by her inability to say no. If anyone ever needed help, Dina would always be there to lend a helping hand, regardless of the inconvenience, cost or consequences.
In my entire life, I have never known anyone with a heart so open to helping on such a vast scale. To be honest, at times I shook my head as I couldn’t understand how someone could truly give in such an unconditional way.
Her amazing impact was so evident in the huge outpouring of love and support we saw rush to her side in the final days of her life.
I met countless people that had been positively touched by the grace and kindness of Dina and were completely devastated by losing her. The stories they told at times brought me to tears as well as often times bringing us all to laughter. As Dina had a unique, endearing perspective on never taking life too serious.
I also became reacquainted with several of Dina’s foster children that I had met at some point throughout the years. They were now kind and caring adults, many of them introducing us to the members of the families that they had built.
They were all universal in one thing; that their mother, Dina, was the beacon of light and hope that their lives needed at the most urgent and crucial of times.
Since many of us had traveled to Bakersfield from out of state, the memorial was held a few days after her death.
Our niece Jamie, is a funeral director at Hillcrest Memorial Park, the same cemetery where I spent so much time grieving Dana a generation ago.
Jamie, the professional funeral director, was suddenly facing the difficult task of leading the direction of her own mom’s funeral, which she did with amazing grace, poise and determination. Even with extremely short notice in these strange Covid-19 times, it was standing room only.
This being a true testament to the incredible imprint that Dina’s legacy left behind.
As so many move forward, missing Dina, I am touched in a way that I haven’t ever been touched before. Seeing and feeling first-hand what a remarkable impact Dina had on so many people who had their lives truly enriched by her unconditional acts of kindness.
As we grieve the shortness of her life, I can’t stop thinking about what a perfect example she set of a life well lived; a life lived with a clear mission and purpose that was guided by a deep understanding of what a meaningful life is truly all about.
There is so much we can all learn from this.