It feels strange to write something about my sister to be read in front of a group of people many of whom I haven't met at the same time, if you are here listening to this, I know it’s because you loved her too, so it’s okay. I'm not well enough to travel, but I would have been here to read this to you myself if I could. John kindly offered to read it for me, so here it is.
Since most of you probably met Rachael as an adult, I'm going to talk about her as I remember her growing up.
Rachael was such a great little sister. She was the most intelligent person I have ever met, with a quicksilver mind I could read a user's manual, take apart something mechanical, and (usually) put it back together by referring to the diagrams, Rachael could do it without even opening the manual, and when she was done, the thing she had reassembled always worked better than it had before She had a native understanding of mechanical things She figured out how to use several mysterious attachments for our sewing machine that no one else could understand, and then wrote out detailed instructions for the rest of us in tiny print in the margins of the sewing machine manual As a child, she could pick up and play any musical instrument after, looking it over for a few seconds, and she was extremely good at math and making things She built a lot of the furniture in her bedroom, and she used to sew beautiful clothes for herself with no patterns Later, as an adult, she built computers for fun with her husband John.
When she was little -- four or five, maybe' -- she was afraid of thunder storms, which we had every afternoon in the summers She'd go off to the basement to wait them out One day she asked us all to come down to the basement for a surprise It turned out that she had taught herself how to use the Super 8 movie camera and make stop-camera animation, and she had made a clay-mation film several minutes long, showing two little balls of oil-based modeling clay rolling around and jumping over each other. At the end, one of the balls started to melt under the lights she had setup, so the last scene was several seconds of continuous film of her hand frantically shaping the clay back into a ball. She was upset when we all laughed, since she felt that it was a mistake, but I told her it was the best part
Here are some silly things we did together as kids:
- foot fights -- we would sit facing each other with our backs against the arms of the couch, and box with our feet.
- buying ice cream cones when it was snowing so we'd be the same temperature on the inside and the outside
- spraying ourselves with every single perfume tester in the department store on the same day
- playing dress-up with an old carry-on bag full of old bras, girdles, and high heels watching Sesame Street together (having a little sister was a great excuse to keep watching it for several more years)
- having indoor camp-outs with flashlights under the dining room table in our grandparents' house, with two table cloths laid sideways to make a tent
and here are some things I remember about Rachael just by herself:
- Rachael in our family car as a little kid, waving and yelling "Hi!" to the people in the other cars we passed.
- listening to Rachael playing the Lieutenant Kijé Suite on her oboe.
- the year that Rachael broke with the Lasher family tradition of white walls and painted her bedroom a sunny yellow.
- Rachael reading Mrs. Pollifax on Safari over and over and over again one summer, in a home-made hammock she set up between two skinny little trees in the back yard.
- the year that Rachael read Harriet the Spy and would only eat baloney, lettuce, mayonnaise, and mustard sandwiches because that was what Harriet ate.
When I left home at 17 to go to college, Rachael and I really missed each other. We talked sometimes on the phone, but that was expensive in the days before flat rate long distance. In between, she wrote me wonderful letters. She sent me cassette tapes of all my favorite record albums, some tapes of herself playing music, and once, a whole home-made chocolate cake complete with chocolate icing, carefully packed in a box for my birthday. It was delicious.
Rest in peace, little sister. I thought we would have many years left to know each other. I feel so off-balance without you. I wish I could have seen you again, and given you a lot more hugs. I am missing you so much already.