McFlynn: A gusto for life |

McFlynn: A gusto for life

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Words cannot accurately describe the grief that follows a loved one’s death.

So when the brother of Sara Elizabeth McFlynn – the 20-year-old Aspen resident who died last week due to complications from diabetes – addressed mourners at her memorial service Friday afternoon, he passed on a spoken eulogy. Instead, Travis McFlynn stood before hundreds of Sara’s family members and friends holding only an out-of-tune guitar.

He spent several minutes before his hushed audience, plucking out selected notes as he struggled to tune the uncooperative instrument. In the end, he opted to leave the guitar as it was – in that way, McFlynn said, the flawed sounds of the instrument would mirror his life without Sara.

“I think it might parallel the way things are going to be for a while for all of us,” he explained to the crowd.

Sara’s nearest and dearest echoed her brother’s statement as they described the Georgetown University sophomore’s short 20 years on Earth. Sara, the youngest of the five McFlynn children, was born “a lover of beauty, the arts, romance and spontaneity,” cousin Baylee Marie Young said.

“She romanced life – she courted it in a very passionate way,” family friend Suzanne Caskey added.

At a very young age, Sara developed a fondness for all things having to do with the outdoors, from fields of sunflowers – a symbol that graced memorial bookmarks distributed by the McFlynn family – to dirt bike and horseback rides. The latter was an activity Sara enjoyed “with the guts and gusto she took with the rest of her life,” family friend Marty Pickett said.

Charlie Anastas, a local youth soccer coach as well as a teacher at Aspen High School, knew Sara on the field as well as in the classroom. Her attitude in both venues, he said, could only be described as “intense.”

“Her strong spirit was the brightest of flames,” Anastas said.

Anastas, affectionately calling her “Number 22,” recalled one of Sara’s favorite poses: shoulders squared away, hands on her hips, foot tapping with impatience as she argued her point with an opponent. Sara’s acceptance to Georgetown and subsequent interest in law came as no surprise to those who knew her best, Anastas said.

“She had an uncanny sense for justice. She was first to try to right the wrong,” he said.

But the occasionally serious Sara was known more for a “fun-loving, impish” side, Anastas said. The teacher recalled a few instances of clock tampering to end long lectures, and the periodic Widespread Panic concert that would cause the band’s biggest fan to skip a class or two.

Sara’s “impish” side was best demonstrated through her laugh, Anastas said.

“They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but through Sara’s laugh you could hear and even feel her soul,” he said.

Sara’s siblings Tim Jr., Jane, Abigael and Travis also noted her playful side. Her zest for life might have been an indication that she wouldn’t be around long enough to see her young nephews and nieces grow up, Tim Jr. said.

“I think she knew her life would be unbearably short, that her time on this planet wouldn’t be enough,” he said.

Sara’s parents, Tim and Donna McFlynn, concluded Friday’s memorial with anecdotes from recent rafting trips and family gatherings. Tim McFlynn said Sara would often add a note of fun to every outing – Tim’s sisters would often interrupt his eulogy with Sara’s favorite quotes.

One quote in particular, listed under the heading of “merriment” in Sara’s well-worn copy of William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” was referenced not long after her death at Children’s Hospital in Denver on Aug. 8.

“‘If you will laugh yourselves into stitches, follow me,'” Tim McFlynn read aloud, one of the memorial service’s brief moments of levity.

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