April 17th. The year was 2007. It changed my life.
It actually started a couple of months before. I remember talking to my mother near the end of January and she mentioned that my sister was going to visit her in Hawaii the beginning of April. My sister loved Ren Faires and there was one she was attending with some of her friends in the islands. About mid-February, she started complaining of abdominal pain. Her doctors said it was her fibroids but they were too big to operate and gave her some medicine to shrink them. After a week, she was in so much pain she couldn't sit at her desk at work. My sister loved working so that in itself meant something. One night she was so miserable, her husband took her to the ER. They admitted her and ran tests.
My father and stepmother got a call from her husband. It was the big "C". My stepmother was a nurse so she got on the phone with the doctor. At one point they asked if they should go to see her (she was 8 hours away) or wait for more tests. The doctor said, "If this was my daughter, I'd be here today." We all made arrangements to be gone and left the next morning. My father and his wife. My youngest sister and her daughter. My family, husband, daughter and the 2 boys. My mom and other sister made plans to fly from Hawaii to San Diego that night. It was March 17th, St. Patrick's Day and my father's anniversary.
It was cancer of the uterine wall. It was very aggressive. The doctors said they had never seen one that grew so fast. There wasn't much that they could do. Chemo wouldn't cure it just maybe prolong her life a little more. They didn't know if she had months, or weeks, or days. We brought her home.
My mother, youngest son and I spent the next few weeks down in San Diego. I got to reconnect with my sister. We talked about old times and discovered a side of her we never knew. We laughed and cried. I had the privilege of telling her what I believe to be true about what happens to us when our lives here are done. It wasn't long though before she spent most of her time sleeping but when she was awake her mind was sharp as ever.
One day she told me about a dream she'd had the night before about a train. On this train were people she remembered. Friends and our grandparents...people who had already passed through our lives here on earth. Then she looked at me and said "I need to take that train." A couple of days later, she was gone. Peacefully and in her bedroom at home just like she wanted. It was one month from the day we arrived, from the day they told her.
Who was she? A daughter, a sister, an aunt. A wife and mother to her two furry children (a dog and a cat) and a friend to so many. As I said she loved Ren Faires and had a closet full of dresses and accessories for those occasions. She loved the Lord of the Rings before it became fashionable to love them. She belonged to the fan club, her name is on the extended version of the Fellowship dvd. My son, who is also a LOTR fanatic, was in awe at all the collector's items she had in her house. "That's Frodo's sword and that one is Gandalf's!" He was only 7 and thought his Aunt was super cool.
She was a picky eater when she was growing up and practically lived on spaghetti and hamburger helper. Imagine my surprise years later when she was the one who took me to my first real Thai restaurant! One of our discoveries about her was that every year she put together an alcoholic concoction they call dragons brew. A mix of wines and fermented fruit juices. My brother in law had bottles that were over 10 years old to ones that she had made the previous year. It is what we toasted her with that last night.
She was amazing with her hands. She loved handiwork like crocheting and knitting. She was meticulous and fast at needlework. Many of her nieces and nephews have handmade Christmas stockings from her.
She loved reading and games. She was the first person I knew to own a personal computer. My boys have inherited her Playstation 2 and they make good use of it.
She was kind and considerate. She was always busy. She may not have kept in touch very often but she never forgot the kids during the holidays. She participated in the walk for breast cancer every year.
Mostly, and this is the part I envy her for, she lived life as SHE wanted to. Without feeling the need to live up to the expectations or approval of family. She didn't pretend to be something she wasn't and it allowed her to be everything she was. She touched a lot of people.
I did a show tonight for a Remembrance Day event. This song was part of that show.
This is my sister, Karen. The pictures are of her, the memories and voice are mine.