To be read at the funeral services for Britt Miller by her
sister, Hannah Miller, on 17 April, 2000
Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering, in order that they may have existence.
This quote was lifted from a Graham Greene novel in which a man loses all his hope after the death of his lover. Much like the character in this novel, I expected to transform immediately into a psychological ogre upon receiving the news that my sister had died. I should warn you, I still might do that. After all, this event is the one thing I have most feared all 24 years of my life. Few people get to confront their deepest fear, but strangely enough I haven't gone as mad as I expected to.
It's as if, while I was rummaging through the boxes of old INXS tapes to find appropriate clothes in which to bury my sister, it's almost as if I had accidentally inherited all her hope. One of my top favorite 632 things about Britt was her tremendous hope in individual personalities and her almost ludicrous optimism in the human race. It stuck out so much amongst people of our age, stood out almost like a genetic mutation amongst those of us who have grown up post-future, post-God, post-emotion, post-everything. Her hope would just crackle off her mind and body, through her jokes, her hugs and wicked smiles and arched eyebrows, even when she was trying her hardest to affect cynicism. Her hope made her seem vulnerable and naked in a way, although it didn't result from a lack of exposure to the world, or naivete, or some fanaticism. It was just because Britt had the deep-water optimism that comes from the purest of souls, those who look at the world and, seeing their own beauty reflected off of it, can't help but falling in love with what they see.
So I would like to pass this hope and love on to all of you, but especially to all the radiant, haunted souls here who are blessed and cursed with an almost chemical predisposition to suffering. For those souls especially, the choice must be made every day whether they want to let suffering explore new continents in their hearts, or whether to let suffering cripple all of their ships in their moorings. A few years ago I wrote in my journal that memory is a house that expands as one walks through it, but now I am learning that suffering reacts with the human heart in exactly the same way. All of us will understand Britt's life more and more as we grow older, and perhaps even begin to understand her death as well.
But to tide us over, I would suggest that you raise a glass, or fold
your hands in prayer, or flick a lighter, or turn up the stereo, or dance
by yourself in the garage for hours on end, like my sister used to do.
Do it in celebration. Because it is rare that such light falls on Earth.
As skeptical as I am, even I believe that we will be reunited with her someday. But in the meanwhile, I will say farewell to Britt Erin Miller, my little sister, my best friend, my armchair psychology partner, my favorite cultural critic, the would-be maid of honor at my wedding, the would-be Aunt Britt to my future kids. You will be with us all the days of our life.