My sister had an old soul. She was chronically wise. A natural observer, she would often sit back and watch me open my big mouth, or do something that would inevitably get me into big doo doo’s. We were 2.5 years apart in age. When it came to common sense, she was born with it.
She had the biggest brown eyes, beautiful woman. She had a great smile and she wore it more than most. She was a happy person. A hard worker, who equally played hard. She lived wisely, she lived well.
It has been twelve years, maybe more since she was taken out of this life, too young. Too young. But when I say that, and I do feel that way, I am reminded of one of the many trips to Dartmouth Hitchcock for treatment, when we walked into the chemo ward and there was a child, a baby really, being infused with toxins to save his life. “I guess I don’t have anything to complain about, do I now?” I think of those words often, not to dwell, but to remember her strength, and to learn from her courage, her wisdom.
She died 10 months to the day of diagnosis, ovarian cancer. She was 37 at diagnosis. As I sit here typing this, all these years later, the journey through treatment, the painful truths that were worded carefully, revealing her fate, fills my chest cavity with void, with pain. I don’t believe I will ever “get over” this. And that is okay. Death is a part of life, an important part. I have come a long way in my grieving. I seldom cry anymore, tonight I am. Because I’m remembering the difficult journey she walked, and she did it amazingly well. I never heard her complain. Ever. Please don’t say “I’m sorry”. I was so fortunate to have known her.
I remember walking into Higgins Hospital in Wolfeboro NH, she was getting a transfusion. I walked into her room, and she was white as a sheet, double fisted in pain. I asked when her meds were due. “I could have them at 3pm” (it was 3:45) “They’ve been really busy”. I stood up, walked out into the corridor and down to the nurses station. “My sister is in pain, her meds were scheduled for 45 minutes ago”. “Yes, we’ll be right there”. 5 minutes later, 10 minutes later. I walked back out into the corridor, this time offering no kind tone “MY SISTER NEEDS HER MEDS….. NOW!” Within a couple of minutes she was given her meds. I sat beside her bed, rubbing her arm, talking to her, trying to distract from what was obviously horrendous. But you don’t really distract from that, do you? Can you? “Donna?” Yeah, I said. “Thank you”. If you knew my sister, this spoke volumes of what her pain level was. She didn’t like discord, and certainly didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. She would roll her eyes at me when I would. Night, day.
This woman meant the world to me. If you have sisters and are close, I needn’t say more. She lives on, in my heart, and my memories have faded some, but not drastically. I can close my eyes and envision her sparkly brown eyes that lit up our fathers eyes, soul. I remember that she didn’t like to try on clothes, so when we shopped, I would slide the pant leg up my arm. If it came to the end of my fingers, they would fit her. Laughing now.
Sometimes I think about the loss I have experienced, and I am not seeking sympathy, but reflecting on my life, on the lives of those I’ve loved and lost, and I just cannot believe I survived it. But when I wrote her eulogy, I vowed to live every day of my life to the fullest. I wanted to live a good life, to live a purposeful life, in her honor, in her memory. Sometimes I think I’ve fallen short, I don’t think she would agree with that. Sometimes I feel my best isn’t good enough, and it is. I can hear her saying that to me. “It is! All you need is encouragement”.
So on this day, her birthday, I am going to do something kind for another, randomly, for her. And I am going to do something kind for myself. I am a better person for having her in my life for 38 years. I know I, we, truly were fortunate to have her in our lives at all. She was everyone’s favorite.
If you want to do something kind for another today, in her memory, I would love that, she would love that. Remember, kind can be just a smile! I will light a candle, and I will follow the ritual I have done since she passed. It is a special day. Today, 51 years ago, a beautiful soul was born into this world. I know, because I was fortunate and blessed to call her my kid sister. Today I, my family, will celebrate her life.
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