You cannot prepare for it. You don’t see it coming. Life can take a tragic turn on any day, in any family. Ours is no exception…
It was the day before Mother’s Day. We were planning to see Mom the next day. I texted my sister and asked if I could make the cake this year, a job she usually handled. She said “No, I already have a spice cake mix & icing set out on the counter. We’ll bring the cake. You go ahead and finish your work”. I protested, but she insisted, saying my niece was already planning to make the cake for her Grandma. I reluctantly agreed. They would bring the cake. I know these things because her texts are still on my phone.
Mother’s Day came and we all met at Mom’s. It was a beautiful day. We visited outside, spray painted Mom’s iron plant stand that was showing wear and had takeout pizza for dinner. And spice cake.
It was a perfect day! We wished Mom a Happy Mother’s Day, hugged goodbye and said “I love you” to each other. We didn’t always do that, but this time I’m glad we did!
The next night, Monday, I received a call from my niece saying my sister was in the hospital. They said it looked like she might have suffered a stroke.
Janet spent 3 days in the hospital. Our family kept vigil in the ICU waiting room. It was a massive cerebral aneurysm. As time passed, it became apparent that she wouldn’t be coming home. It was so hard to believe. We had just seen her and spent the day with her. She was fine. She was happy. How could this be?
Janet died on Thursday, very early in the morning. We were numb. We were grief-stricken. We hugged, cried, and went through the motions. Her visitation and funeral. Thousands of people showed up to say goodbye. People waited hours in line to speak to her husband & girls, and to shake our hands. She had been a teacher, her husband is a teacher, her girls both in high school – they knew a lot of people!
Family, friends, co-workers, and students told us stories of the impact she had on their lives. She was an excellent, caring teacher, a star daughter and sister, a great wife and mom. She was a loving, giving, unselfish person. She worried about how others felt, what they needed, how she could help, always thoughtful and kind.
Those kind words meant more to us than anyone could know. The knowledge that her life mattered, that she had left her mark, that she would be missed by others, not just her family… She was indeed one of a kind!
I miss her terribly and think of her every day. My baby sister, 10 years younger, she is truly missed!
I think the most difficult thing for me has been watching the pain of her young daughters. She wasn’t finished raising them, though she had already had quite the influence on them! (They are wonderful, kind young ladies, just like their mom).
They will miss the opportunity to share their lives with her as adults. Graduations, marriages, grandchildren. My heart aches for them. It’s been three years, and, in spite of it all, they have been very resilient. They have managed to continue forward with a brave exterior. I know, in private, they still struggle.
The other side of that pain is watching my parents grieve this loss. How devastating it must be to lose your youngest daughter so suddenly! It’s hard to imagine the pain of a parent. They, too, have been resilient, relying on their faith for strength, believing they will one day see her again.
Life continues, time doesn’t stop, and grieving remains. Those feelings have changed in the time she has been gone, though the hurt is still present. Even so, we can now see her through her girls, talk about her and wonder what she would have said or thought. Most times we smile now, remembering her fondly.
I still pick up the phone to call her.
I still shed a tear more often than anyone knows.
I still imagine what life would have been like if she were still here.
Today can slip away in a split second. Here today, but quickly things can change. Take time to be with your family, make memories that will last a lifetime. Cherish every moment, smile, and take the opportunity to love. No one knows when their turn will come.
A family still grieves.
A family is slowly healing, but will the ache will never leave.
Our hope of seeing her again remains.
RIP, little sister. We love and miss you.
— Kim —