Grieving is a process, individual and unique to all. It begins early in life. Some say the first grief is when we exit the womb into this world of gravity and constant stimuli. Throughout childhood we begin to learn the key elements of grieving… loss and the need to let go. This may begin with a pet goldfish or a beloved teddy bear that has been reduced, through love, to tatters. Eventually it extends to our human loved ones. For some that comes very early in life. I recall a friend in my childhood town of Norton, Massachusetts whose father died unexpectedly. I was about ten and I pondered what all of that meant to my friend Jackie.
I could only imagine but eventually my time came, as it comes to all of us. No matter when we lose our parents it is just plain hard. So my heart aches for my cousins Milo, John, and Phil who have lost their beloved mother, Bunny.
Now begins the painful process of letting go and yesterday we held a memorial service for her at Point of Rocks. It was very moving, warm and relaxed as she would want it to be. Each person took the time to remember Bunny and contribute a flower to Bunny’s bouquet. By the time we were finished the sun had set, the bouquet was complete, and there was much love in the spring night air. It would have been Bunny’s 96th birthday.
Bunny’s remains will be interred in the family plot in Norton, Massachusetts on April 17.
Additional photos from the March 26th event are below.❧
Phyllis “Bunny” Gavin Robinson is gone. She died peacefully on February 29, 2016 in Sarasota, Florida. She was 95.
Bunny was born in 1920 and was my first cousin, once removed. She was nine years younger than my mother and they grew up together in Norton, Massachusetts. Indeed, for me, Bunny’s death is the severing of the last link to my mother and her generation.
Bunny was the first of four daughters born to Phil and Helen Gavin. The Gavin Girls — Bunny, Sally, Mary Helen and Carol — were a force of nature. The power of four sibling sisters should not be underestimated. I have known several of these groupings in my life and each has been fascinating to me. There is a closeness and yet a distancing between these sisters that is almost electric. They are fiercely competitive yet uniquely giving. They can fight like cats and dogs in one instance and then fall into a circle of intense communication that is almost telepathic.
Before her marriage she served in the Red Cross during World War II and was in the South Pacific when the war ended. My Uncle Bud, then serving in the Navy, actually visited her on one of the islands during the war, an amazing thing to me. All of Bunny’s life was amazing to me. As I was growing up, first in Norton and later in Sarasota, Florida, I would hear stories of my exotic cousin Bunny. Her marriage to Parker Robinson immersed her in the diplomatic corps and Parker was stationed in some fascinating locales in the 1950s and 60s — France, Spain, Chile. Bunny became the diplomat’s wife and she had wonderful interpersonal skills.
She lived long enough to see her first great-grandchildren and, as you can see from the picture, she loved meeting them. Look at that picture for a moment. What is passing between those two? Winston will not remember meeting Grandma Bunny but something passed in those moments that I hope stays with him, a joy of life and a respect for its wonders.
Five days before she died we had our last conversation. I was sitting at her bedside and she opened her eyes. “Alice!” she said. I said hello and gave her a kiss. The eyes closed and opened again a while later. “Such a good girl,” she said. The eyes closed again for a while and then opened. Looking directly at me she quietly and sweetly said, “Now, go away.”
My years as a hospice nurse gave me the insight to know what she was saying. She was letting go. Her world was diminishing and she was acknowledging that. I kissed her softly and said goodbye. Then I went away.
I would see her one more time but she was unresponsive, making the transition to the next world. She was very peaceful and that is how I will remember her. With the passage of time these awful weeks of her final illness will fade from memory and I will recall my wonderful, fascinating cousin Bunny in happier times. And I will recall her courage in the final days…the days that will come to us all…and hope that I can carry that courage to my final time.