1

Kicking 2016 to the Curb

To say 2016 was a difficult year is not giving enough credence to all that transpired. I have felt in upheaval almost all year. So many things have happened I can scarcely recall them all. Of course, life has a way of allowing sparkling moments in the midst of heartache and I must acknowledge there have also been some truly sparkling moments!

The year started with a dramatic change in lifestyle. It was a chosen change, but dramatic nonetheless. I was so excited to be near my sister after being so far away for so long. She had been fighting cancer for years and just being close meant the world.

img_2740Unfortunately, five months after I relocated, my sister lost her battle with cancer. Losing her was devastating. Her passing came at the end of a difficult hospital stay and all the family was lost. For me, this was the second sister we lost to cancer, so every sad memory from before resurfaced again. I still have not grieved the loss of my sister even after all these months. I have built a very big and ugly wall that keeps me isolated from my feelings. I know when the moment comes it will be extremely difficult. The funny thing when you lose a sister and there are ‘closer’ family members, I think some people may not realize the depth of the loss. I do not want to diminish the impact her passing had on each and every member of our family – it was SO hard for everyone. Maybe it is my wall, but I felt isolated and alone in my grief – I still do.

A few months prior to my sister’s passing, my brother was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was in treatment but did come to see her in the hospital. I know this loss has had a tremendous impact on him as well. Again, as siblings, I don’t think people understand the impact. We all lost our mother to cancer when we were young adults, and that witnessing and experience never leaves you. My brother and I talk almost every day and his wife is taking such good care of him. I am witness to yet another fighter – strong and defiant – but I know it has not been easy on him.

We also had another cancer diagnosis in my husband’s family so it has been a pretty tough year where family health has been concerned. We are steadfast in our love and support – the fight goes on.

img_7433We were fortunate enough to find a place we loved near the mountains. It has been glorious but even this had it’s challenge. This year we had a long drought and the mountains near us were burning. We had smoke, but thankfully we were never really at risk – others were not so fortunate. The good people of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN, suffered tremendous losses. It makes you realize just what’s important.

My sparkling moments were spectacular – all my children and grandchildren together for the VERY FIRST TIME to help me celebrate my birthday. It was more than I could have dared ask for.  I watched them talk and play and just be here and that was all I needed. It was truly beautiful.

Another sparkling moment occurred when I met four beautiful souls I had never met in person. You would not believe the amazing connections we all shared. It was beautiful. SARK brought us together ages ago and the relationships were built over many years. Such long-lasting connections were not unusual in our group of online friends. Luscious and succulent and even more so in person! It was a beautiful blessing.

I was able to attend a family reunion this year and see cousins I have not seen in – oh – say 40 years or so. My brother was there, too, which made it extra special for me. I’ve learned so much about our family as I have taken the plunge into genealogy, so seeing everyone again and remembering our parents and grandparents was so rewarding. Looking forward to seeing everyone again in 2017.

Then there was the election. No political discussion on my blog other than to say my wildly beautiful and culturally rich family and friendship circles are worried about what lies ahead. If you are in my circle and love me, I expect you to stand beside me and fight for the rights of those I love if the need arises. Enough said. I have faith – for without it I would be lost.

And let’s not even talk about all the amazing musicians and entertainers we lost this year.

But back to the sparkle – I still get the sparkle.  Some of my most sparkling moments are very personal and very private – those protected moments are blindingly beautiful. They involve my heart and soul.

So, I prepare to say goodbye to 2016. It is with a heart that is both heavy and overjoyed at the promise of what the future holds, that I say goodbye to this year of my life. I look forward to 2017 with hope, love and unfailing faith in the inherent good in people. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I just know that I need to focus on the promise of a better 2017. Bring on the JOY!

Cleanse is my word for 2017.

“I dismiss _________ in favor of _________” is my phrase. (There will be a LOT of those phrases!)

theothersideOut with the bad – in with the good. Here’s to crumbling my emotional fortress and allowing myself to feel and grow. And in saying goodbye to this difficult year, I say goodbye to my sister. I really miss you, Sis. More than I think you ever could have imagined I would. My life is forever changed.

2

My Heart is Breaking

As the rest of the world struggled with what to have for dinner or what clothes to wear or what movie to see, you struggled to do something much more basic. You struggled to open your eyes, to form a word, to lift your arm.

You, my beloved sister, have always been my strength and it is beyond difficult to be so helpless knowing how much you must yearn for someone to help you say what you want to say and do the things you want to do. It is hard to see the tears roll down your cheeks and to sit with your children and not be able to comfort them because you are their mom. Their hearts shatter into tinier pieces each and every day.

We are all witness to the journey of this life and the road is so difficult at times. But every time I think about how difficult it feels, I think about how damned hard it is for you. That is the only place I find any strength.

I cannot talk about this – the words choke me. It seems so unfair to me after all you have already been through. This morning an indigo bunting came to our feeder. It brought me to tears because I wanted to call you and share this simple little joy with you. I cannot call you and that one simple pleasure gone is tearing me apart. I don’t know how many years we have talked almost every day without fail. Today I could not call you.

Today I feel weak, but tomorrow I will be better and try to give you what you need from me. I do not want to fail you now when you need me most. I love you with all my heart and soul. You are the best sister anyone could ever ask for – 62 years of undying friendship. We have seen each other through a lifetime of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, joys and celebrations. We have always been there for each other every step of the way.

I know God has you in His care. I hope He is keeping watch over all of us, too, because we are feeling lost right now. I am not giving up – I know you too well for that. I have witnessed your strength fighting for your very life for over 10 years and I know that if anyone can get through this, it will be you.

God, I hope this isn’t the angel you are looking for right now. I am not ready. None of us are ready.

I love you, BJ.

7

Getting Back in the Game

I am allowing myself to finally step out of grief a little and start enjoying my life.  Each and every day my heart still misses Rosie and wants for her.  I am gobsmacked at how different I feel knowing my sister is not here to talk and laugh with.  I know her spirit is here – I feel her presence all the time.  Is it the same?  No, of course not, but it is comforting.  One thing I know about Rosie is that she lived fully each and every minute within whatever boundaries were imposed upon her.  I know it is time to focus on reclaiming my joy and living life fully just like she would have.  So, Rosie, I miss you more than I can ever articulate.  It physically hurts sometimes.  Just know that even though I am moving through this life, I am moving through it a changed person knowing I will never feel your presence here again.  I know there will be a lot more tear-filled days ahead.  Please hold my hand and walk with me and watch from above.  Just be with me as I move back into life.  And I know that when we do see each other again it will be a joyous day!

I am so thankful that BJ’s results were negative for cancer.  I think I held my breath waiting.  When she called me and told me, I finally let myself bawl like a baby.  My walls came tumbling down.  God does indeed answer prayer.  Maybe not always in the way that we want it, but we do get an answer.  I am so very thankful that His answer was what we had all prayed for.  We never know what tomorrow may bring.  I guess that makes it doubly important to live every moment to the fullest.  Love and embrace every person and every experience.  For all of those things are the building blocks that create this life and they are there for each of us to take.  It is as simple as putting out your hand and accepting what is given.  BJ, I cannot tell you how much you mean to me.  Where there were three, there are now two.  At some point one of us will leave the other and then there will be one.  Until that day (and I hope it is a hundred years away) I will breathe you in and out with every breath I take.  We are as one.  Like it or not.  I love you to the moon and we have a lot more memories to make, you and I.

Of course, there is also the job loss.  All of these things have had me so overwhelmed.  I am trying to re-craft my life as best I can, but it is a slow process.  It’s tough out there and you just have to grow a pretty thick skin to get through it all, but get through it I will.  And I know that in some way, my life will be better for having gone through this.  It is just another step along the way.  I have never looked back and I’m not about to start now.

So, what’s ahead for me?  Joy, Simplicity, Love of Life, Faith, Love of Family, and Determination…..just to name a few.  I have a little fictional short story churning in my mind, so I’ll be publishing it on my A Little Big of Soul blog in the coming days.

Life is worth living.  I started this blog when we lost Bella.  It was so hard and I was in such disbelief.  I had to remind myself – Life IS worth living.  I guess after the past few weeks I needed to remind myself again.  It’s all part of the process.  Life IS worth living.

Get on board with me folks – it’s full steam ahead.  As my grandpa used to say…time and tide wait for no man…  Boy, oh, boy, was he smart.

Did I mention it won’t be long until Christmas?  🙂

8

Let Me Introduce You….

One of the benefits of being unemployed is being able to talk to the phone for extended periods of time.  I find loading and unloading the dishwasher goes much faster when I’m jabbering with my sister.  Living so far away from each other, we don’t get to spend as much time together as we would like.  I realized today that while everyone loves my sister, the woman, there aren’t many people who know MY Babba.  So let me introduce you….

BJ has always felt this enormous pressure to be the caretaker of our family since she is the oldest.  I realize this is a pressure that she puts on herself, and now that she is again facing heart wrenching challenges, I want her to know she can just be Little Barb with me.  She can cry, she can laugh, she can tell me things that others may not understand.  That is the beauty of being a sister.  Today, I want to take a step back and give you a little insight to the little girl that I grew up with.

If I close my eyes, I still see BJ with the ever-present smile and beautiful hair – pulled back in French braids and later on flying loose and free and tangled.   As a little girl, I remember lying on the bed in Grandpa Short’s room and watching her curl her hair.  She never had to look in the mirror.  Every part, every strand beautifully wrapped.  I can see her with her head lying on the pillow with perfect rolls of pink brush curlers.  Ouch!  I never knew how she slept on those things.  And she could even wrap pincurls!  I was always so impressed.

BJ is beautiful now, but as a young woman she was gorgeous.  She has a stoic disbelief in that, but she was indeed beautiful.  Tall, thin and lanky with a personality that drew everyone in.  I can see her in Bermuda shorts and a ruffled halter top, totally oblivious to how stunning she was.  Inside, BJ was a storyteller (I think there is a story-teller gene and it’s very strong in our family!).  As the little girl lying beside her in the bed we shared, I drove her nuts.  I wanted to stay awake and jabber (much like I do now) and she would be patient to a point and then – the ring.  She would spin a tale of how she had an invisible magic ring that would transport her to another place.  In great detail she would explain that once she turned the ring on her hand she would no longer be able to hear me and I could talk all I wanted, but she would not respond.  “Okay, MagCindy, I’m turning the ring now.  I love you.  Goodnight.”  Oh, try as I might, she didn’t hear me.  I tried to talk to her, to giggle, to do whatever, but alas, there was nothing to do but turn over and go to sleep.  I never understood why SHE got the magic ring and I didn’t.

We laugh about the magic ring now, but it was a big part of our relationship.  Just like beauty pageants, nakey-poo, Dear John, ‘I’m from Brazil where the nuts come from…’, walking sticks and all the rest.  Our memories are interwoven.  We eventually moved apart and lived our adult lives, but we re-emerged as adult sisters with strong bonds.  When we talk, we are still those little girls trusting and loving each other with anything and everything.  Just like I trusted her to show me how to get the pearls out of a crawl-dad!

Babba is the one I jumped rocks with.  Babba is the one that bore the responsibility of answering all my ‘serious questions’.  She has always been there for me.  She was there for my daughter when I couldn’t be.  She has always been the big sister.  As we wrestled the grown-up issues life threw at us, we were always there for each other.  We held each other and cried over the loss of our sister.   A loss we felt in a way that no one else can understand.

I love this little girl, Babba.  But more than I love her, I love the woman she has become.  I love her connection to her roots and to her mountains.  I love her connection to her children and her grandchildren.  I love her connection to her siblings and her need to be the big sister.  But most of all, I just love her.  I love her for who she was when I was growing up and the friend that she is to me now.

So, when you hear me talk about my sister.  Know I am talking about a life-long friend.  Know that I am talking about the kind of woman you encounter only once in a lifetime.  Know that I am talking about my Sis.  Small word – big heart.

Friday BJ goes to hear the results of her biopsy.  She will be strong for herself and everyone else.  I love that about her.  She is so many things to so many people.  But to me, she’s always been my big sister.  For over 56 years now.

I love you, Babba Jo.  To the moon and back again.  What do you say we just take a walk down to Long Rock and find a few good flat rocks to skip.  Maybe we can jump rocks home.  Think we can do that without falling and breaking our fool necks?

This morning two sisters had a long chat on the phone.  It means a lot.  It keeps us aglow inside.  We don’t judge.  We just talk and we listen – the way God designed sisters to be.   So if you pray for my sister, pray for the whole of her and all that she is to each and every one of us who love her.  I love you, my sister.  Always.  And I am with you, willing to let you lay your head on my shoulder.  Even though you are older and wiser, you don’t always have to be  the strong one.   ‘K?

9

Being Strong While Shedding Tears

My sister, Rosie, is battling cancer.  She had some tremendous setbacks this week – I think it may have been one of her toughest yet.  Last night she told me something that broke my heart.  She said she tries to stay strong, but in the night, when no one is looking she cries.

We sit on the sidelines and watch the battle.  We are helpless.  We want to take away the pain but it is not within our power.  It hurts so bad to see someone you love hurting, but last night I think I understood for the first time what pressure she was feeling.

I know sometimes I cry alone.  Sometimes I don’t want others to see me.  I can only imagine how hard it must be to battle the biggest battle of your life and not be able to express how you are feeling.  I felt ashamed.

I understand all too well the value of laughter in this fight.  The value of positive thinking.  But if I can have a bad day and feel like I need a good cry, then my beloved sister deserves no less.

Rosie, I love you with all my heart.  I ask you to forgive me for always wanting you to be strong in this fight.  I will be here for you no matter what your mood, no matter what you need to say or how you need to say it.  Do not misunderstand.  I want to keep my sister with the sharp wit.  I want to hear you laugh.  This fight is not over.  You and I are NOT giving up.  But let’s be fair from now on.  Cry when you need to cry.  Laugh when you need to laugh.  Fight when you need to fight.  And know that above all things, you mean the world to me.

I love you with all my heart.

2

Relationships, Sisters and the Value of Macaroni Salad

These days, we really seem to underestimate the value of family.  We are a broken nation, so content to flee rather than to hang on and fight.  No more kissing and making up.  It’s easy to stay mad.  We feel justified in our anger.  We’ve lost the value of longevity in our relationships.  I can’t say I’ve represented picture-perfect relationships in my life, although I’m certainly blessed to finally have found the love of my life.  I’m just saying, even in the best of times, it takes work.

We lost our mother way too early.  It was life-changing for all of us.  We struggled to maintain our balance when our world was being flipped upside down.  Slowly, over the years, we drifted back together after realizing we didn’t have the same substance apart as we did together.  Relationships had failed, succeeded, ebbed and flowed.  But the current of family still ran deep below the surface.  Then we lost Dad.  Another devastating blow.  This time as adults with children of our own, we had to be strong for them.  And still we drifted.  Then we lost our step-mom, who we all loved with everything in us and she loved us all in return.  It felt as if no one was left.  We had lost all our anchors.

Floating….floating….nothing to anchor us…..each adrift among success or failure, happiness or sadness.  Each adrift in life….and still the current of family ran deep.

166323_10150135118191057_7055742_nOne summer, three sisters decided to leave family behind.  We trekked to the mountains of Georgia just to remember what it was like to be sisters.  It wasn’t easy at first.  We had different memories.  We had different triggers.  We got angry with each other as we tried so hard to understand.  We worked jig-saw puzzles often times in silence….it didn’t hit me until months later how symbolic it was that we were putting the pieces of our lives back together…piece by piece, twisting and turning – trying to make sense of it all and trying to find where each little piece fit into the whole.

Then came the macaroni salad – the kind we grew up with.  We each did our part, cooking, chopping mixing…..little pieces again making up the whole.  For the rest of the week, this magical symbolic salad nurtured and fed us.  And we started to laugh.  We played games.  We challenged each other.  We stayed up late and didn’t shower.  We just hung out as only sisters can.

I think we all learned how much we loved each other.  Not that we forgot really, just that we were each leading independent and valuable lives – separate from the whole.  But sometimes you just need to be with people who have always been there.  People that have known you from day one.  People that love you even when you don’t shower.  I’d love to tell you more, but we made a pact – WHAT HAPPENS AT THE CABIN, STAYS AT THE CABIN.

In the midst of the trips to the mountains, both my sisters were diagnosed with cancer.  One sister had a kidney removed.  I was terrified for her and for me.  Then my other sister was diagnosed with cancer that she, too, seemed to overcome.  Last fall she was diagnosed with lung cancer and she’s fighting a very difficult battle.  Again I find myself terrified for her and for me.  But I refuse to give up.  Prayer.  Love.  My sisters are a huge part of me.  What I’ve learned through this process is that when you come from the kind of stock that we did, you never really fully lose that connection.  We may argue with each other and get frustrated, but you see, YOU don’t have the right to say ANYTHING disparaging about my sisters.  They belong to ME.  They are the links that make me whole.  Without them I would not feel the deep down honest to God love for anyone the way I do.  They taught me so much.  They still do.  They are part of me.  They are the parts that have always been.

If you have been as fortunate, stop tonight and reconnect.  Don’t let old hurts and disappointments take away what connects us to our very essence.  Make a call.  Give a hug.  Write a note.  Then thank God that you were blessed with the miracle of sisters.

And if you are doubly blessed by having a brother, remember that he may have been taught not to be soft.  Not to be nurturing.  Find the pieces and fit them back together.  We all need each other…sister or brother.  Mother or father.  We don’t come into this world alone….and if you look closely, someone ‘has always been’.

If you weren’t as fortunate, I give you my heart, because you deserved to be loved, too, as much as I am.

To my sisters and my brother – I love you to the moon and back again.  Now and always – you will always be a part of me.

0

Waiting is so Hard

I got a call tonight just as I was getting ready to go to bed.  My niece found her mom (my sister) unresponsive when she came home tonight.  They are in the ER now.

My sister is made of strong stuff.  She has been a fighter from the very beginning.  Last fall she was diagnosed with cancer and has been receiving radiation and chemo ever since.   Throughout this process, she has been a trooper.  I wonder just how hard it has been for her to stay so strong for all of us.  She makes it look a hell of a lot easier than it is, I know.

Sis, tonight my heart is in constant rhythm with yours.  I am keeping you locked in my heart, my mind and my prayers.  You keep fighting.

Waiting for the phone to ring is a hard and helpless feeling.  I’m praying.  Everyone is praying.

Hang in there, Sis.  I know you have been working hard to make us feel at ease about how serious this all is.  I know you haven’t let us know how difficult it has been on you.  You just have to keep fighting.

I love you with all my heart. ♥