Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Losing a Sister

Late last night we got the call we'd been waiting for -- and dreading. My husband's sister passed away, after a long bout with inflammatory breast cancer. We had been losing her by degrees for some time now, but it's hard to fully grieve while some part of her was still with us. Now her struggle is over, and she is at peace. (Being the strong-willed spirit she was, as runs in her family, she struggled bravely.)

Linda was the sort of person who notices small things. One of her Christmas traditions, which we all looked forward to, was her famous handmade caramel popcorn with nuts. She would make a bag for each household in the family. One year I watched her making it, standing over the caramel pot, stirring and stirring to get it just perfect, a real labor of love. Well, the second year that I went home with George for Christmas, she remembered something I'd mentioned the year before. I like to relish treats, eating just a little bit at a time to make it last, while George would enjoy it more heartily (and quickly!), with the result that I didn't get very much of our shared bag of caramel corn. So the second year, after each household got their bag, she pulled me aside, flashed me a sly smile, slipped me my own bag of caramel corn, and said "Shhh. Don't tell George." Her insightful gesture made me feel especially welcomed into my new family.

Linda also had a knack for choosing the perfect gift, the kind that is very thoughtful and a consequence of her noticing the small things. She noticed how much enjoyment we got out of our barbecue grill (which George's sisters and families had pitched in and bought for us), and one year we got a wonderful tin box of assorted spice rubs. We weren't familiar with rubs before, but we sure are now, and we're grateful to Linda and Ken each time. Another year, she had noticed how we were enjoying the variety of birds that came to the bird bath in our backyard, and another Christmas we got a pair of field glasses and a bird book that has increased our enjoyment of our flying backyard visitors.

Linda loved gardening and loved her flowers. George has picked up her love of and knack for orchids, and I think his success can be traced to her inspiration and advice. Her garden always had varieties of beautiful things in it, and we would learn about new plants from her, in her backyard or in annual pilgrimages to Rogers Gardens (where she introduced us to "Million Bells"). Another Linda holiday tradition was her bulbs. Every year, we'd get a pot full of bulbs, and it was always a joy to see in the spring what variety of colorful flowers would come popping up. Her flowers, like her circle of family and friends, were lovingly cultivated and blossomed from her insightful attention.

We will miss her great smile, her quiet inquisitiveness, and her profound thoughtfulness, expressing her love through all the little details she took note of. Our love for our sister, and our fond memories of her, like her blooms, will be perennials.


Jason said...

That is one of the most touching "memorials" I've ever read. I never met this woman, and I had tears in my eyes by the time I finished reading it. She apparently is not the only one who paid attention to details and remembered those she loved. It seems you too have that same gift. Thank you for sharing it, and your memories of your sister.

KipEsquire said...

Very touching. My condolences to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear about George's sister. This was a very nice way to respect her with the things that you wrote. My thoughts are with you guys.

craig h.

zeti said...

my condolences to you and ur family.
ur post is beautiful, reading it i can almost feel her radiance,its not surprising that shes ur sister in-law. The best gift of life is perhaps being surrounded by loving and caring ppl, such as ur family.

Anonymous said...

What a very fitting and personal tribute to a very brave and strong woman. I feel blessed to have her as a friend and am extremely touched by your words. You were loved by her very much.

Becky Treichel

RJ said...

The love you have will last forever. Very nice tribute. May the warm memories continue to remind you how precious life is.

Anonymous said...

This inspirational and touching tribute to Linda is a display of the splendor and kindness of her spirit and a guide for us all to follow.

Bill Buyok

Anonymous said...

My deepest sympathies to you and George. I didn't know Linda at all, but your loving words, delivered in your customarily perceptive, thoughtful way, bring her easily to mind, as if we were old friends. Thanks for sharing, Tom.

Chris Newton

Nancy said...

Tom, this is a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing her with us.

Anonymous said...

Sorry she is gone.

My sister died from breast cancer
complications Feb 24th. It is still quite upsetting