Wednesday, February 15, 2006
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.