Afternoon Quickie: “Should I Place My Sister’s Photo in the Newspaper?”

My sister was nine years older than I and suffered from schizophrenia. I’m 78, so she became sick in the 1950s when the disease was not understood. She died in 2010. A cousin recently sent me a picture of her when she was a young child and I was so surprised to see this picture. She was truly such a beautiful child! Who would have known, as she became sick at about 18 years. I have been thinking of sending this photo of her to be placed in our local newspaper as a remembrance to her this June, as she died in June, and saying: “In remembrance of a beautiful mind. From your sister, Barbara.” My husband thinks this is nonsense and I should just get a flower to place on her gravesite. On one hand, I think he is right, but, on the other hand, I want to show this beautiful person to some people that were quite critical of her. I never defended her actions when she was alive, as she was “difficult” because of her illness. Should I just let this go? — Remembering My Sister

Sure, post a photo in the newspaper, but not because you want to prove to her critics how beautiful your sister once was. Do it because, beautiful or not, schizophrenic or not, her life was as meaningful and important as anyone else’s and she deserves to be remembered and honored. If placing a photo in the newspaper is a way for you to honor her that feels impactful, do that. But understand that it shouldn’t take being pretty to illustrate one’s humanity or to prove how deserving one is of love and understanding. Even if your sister never had a pretty day in her life, her memory still deserves the honor of acknowledgement and compassion. Perhaps the best way you could remember your sister is by making a donation in her name to a foundation or organization that serves the mentally ill.


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  1. Sunshine Brite says:

    I love this. Please remember her in the way that feels right to you.

  2. As someone who has worked for 20 years in the charitable sector, I would not only second Wendy’s suggestion of making a contribution to an organization that helps people living with schizophrenia now, but also suggest telling your sister’s story through that organization, alongside your gift. The old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is not always true, and in this case, the picture won’t tell all of the story, both of who your sister was as a person (apart from the illness and prior to its onset) and of what your family and your sister herself lost due to the illness. The Schizophrenia Society (whatever it may be called where you are) bases its mission on telling the stories of people who are affected by the condition, to humanize and remove stigma, to raise awareness of the issues for people today living with the condition, and to raise funds for both support programs and research that may help people live better lives. This way, the story will also be directed at an audience that sympathizes and knows what your family has gone through, while also offering it to a wider audience. Memory and remembrance are among the most important things that make us human.

  3. “But understand that it shouldn’t take being pretty to illustrate one’s humanity or to prove how deserving one is of love and understanding. Even if your sister never had a pretty day in her life, her memory still deserves the honor of acknowledgement and compassion. Perhaps the best way you could remember your sister is by making a donation in her name to a foundation or organization that serves the mentally ill.”
    This is the reason I always come back to this site; you’re very wise Wendy. What an important message this is!

  4. bittergaymark says:

    I say — post the picture, if it pleases you to do so. But don’t expect anybody to be swayed by it — if that is what you are truly looking for, I suspect that you shall be sorely disappointed. So post the picture for you, your sister, and nobody else..
    PS. All this sentiment about how everybody is oh-so-very special and that looks shouldn’t matter would be nice… if we lived in FANTASY LAND. But please. Look around. Apparently, LOOKS are THE ONLY THING THAT FUCKING MATTER. (Well, okay, maybe money…) But go ahead, I challenge you to name me five, celebrated, successful or even vaguely famous people who are all meh looking… Yeah… Good luck with that.

    1. 1)Bill Nye
      2)Neil Degrasse Tyson
      3)Channing Tatum ( I know some women love him. but ew.)
      4)Mayim Bialik
      5)Néstor Kirchner (an ex argentinian president, he was ugly as sin, but amazing)

      1. bittergaymark says:

        That’s a pretty feeble list. Half the people I have never even heard of… Oh, and Channing was a successful model for christ sake, so he doesn’t exactly count.

      2. RedRoverRedRover says:

        Seriously? Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, Ghandi, Stephen King, Winston Churchill. That was super easy. I can do five more. And five more. And five more. If the only famous people you consider are the ones who are famous for being pretty, then yeah, obviously looks are the biggest thing that matters. But if you consider the ones who are famous for DOING something, then looks aren’t really a factor. Some can be downright ugly – look at Hitler for god’s sake.
        And I know my list is missing women, because women are judged on their looks a hell of a lot more, and on their accomplishments a lot less. Hopefully that’s changing. Most people don’t consider Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren attractive, but they’re making a difference. And Angela Merkel is one of the most powerful people in the world, I don’t think she’s considered much of a hottie.
        So while I agree with you that looks are important to humans, to think that they’re the only thing that matters is obviously untrue.

      3. Eleanor Roosevelt

      4. RedRoverRedRover says:

        Yeah, there’s actually quite a few if you think about it. Others that came to mind were Marie Curie, Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Mother Theresa. But it’s always the same women from history over and over that get mentioned, because there are so few, so I tried to think of some contemporary ones. Not to mention that some people claim we’re getting shallower as a society, so using current examples is a stronger argument.

      5. bittergaymark says:

        Um, those are all so far in the past its hilarious. (Eleanor Roosevelt?) Anybody current? Hello… The fact that some of you are reaching so far back into the past ONLY proves my argument…

      6. Kathy Bates, Dame Judi Dench, June Squibb, Kathy Griffin, Rebel Wilson, Melissa McCarthy, Hilary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor. I mean obviously looks are all subjective, but these are all women that don’t fit the typical Hollywood standard of beauty.

      7. bittergaymark says:

        And how many of those have ever been on the cover of Vanity Fair? Maybe Hilary. Maybe. But I doubt it.

      8. You said “celebrated, successful or even vaguely famous”. I don’t think a Vanity Fair cover is the measure of success.

      9. I never thought that being on the cover of a pop-culture/fashion magazine was an important measure of anything in life.

      10. Lena Dunham is another. She’s not attractive by “Hollywood” standards, but she has been on magazine covers and she is successful.

      11. RedRoverRedRover says:

        Mindy Kaling too.

      12. RedRoverRedRover says:

        Did you even READ my comments? I specifically mentioned current women in the first one so that you wouldn’t make that stupid argument. And mentioned that argument in my second one. And then you go and make it… way to go.

      13. I don’t even read his posts any more. Look how far down the rabbit hole you are now? Just scroll past…

  5. WEES. I like the idea of sharing it in a variety of places and donating to a related organization. My husband and I both have close relatives who have/had schizophrenia and I still like to honor them in similar ways (sharing photos with others, stories, awareness); it can be bittersweet but I find it very healing. I hope whatever you do will help you let go of the guilt you have for not defending your sister.

  6. Geez this made me cry….I’m also on my period, but it makes me wonder how out of control my hormones will be if I’m ever pregnant.

  7. If you do post something in the paper, you could always make mention of an organization that supports her ailment, so if other people want to donate they can.

  8. wobster109 says:

    Beautiful answer!

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