It was almost time for my birthday, I was going to turn 7 years old. Like most young children, I was so excited for my special day to arrive. Planning in my head what kind of cake I wanted for my party, it was going to be so much fun. When I came home from school that day my mom and dad said they had a surprise for me. Really, a surprise so close to my birthday? Oh goodness my surprise must be a gift to beat all gifts.
The next day on March 7th, they told me that my surprise was indeed very special, I WAS GOING TO BE A BIG SISTER! Having been adopted at 4 from a family where I had a brother and a sister, my parents adopting a sister for me was the best gift ever. Seven days later, my parents came home with the sweetest little baby girl with the biggest brown eyes I ever saw. She was my baby. When my parents printed the birth announcements they even said that “I” was proud to announce my new baby sister. It was a special time for all of us.
My little sister and I grew up happy in a loving family complete with the family vacations that sometimes looked more like a “Griswald Family Vacation” movie. Camping at the Grand Canyon with city slicker parents lasted one night after a visit from a huge bear looking for food. A trip to California my sister not only fell and broke her arm but a tiny Chihuahua bit her on the tip of her nose. But we survived the vacations with many happy memories and a lot of laughter.
We both grew up and became mom’s and as in all life there were up’s and down’s but we were sisters, a gift I never forgot. Newly divorced, she received the devastating news that she had breast cancer. As her big sister, I tried to do what I could to support her. She was strong, fought hard and came through it.
Eighteen years later, January, 2018, she once again received the devastating news. This time it was advanced, stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to the bone. Never in my life had I witnessed such terrible pain, my heart broke and yet I could do nothing to stop it. Her children and I tried to be there for her and comfort her but it was so hard for her. Finally, after both chemo and radiation, she began to improve. Prayers had been answered, for the next year she did well, even began working and enjoyed being part of her son’s business. In June, 2019 her lungs began filling with fluid over and over…a few weeks later the hard decision was made that she would go into hospice on Monday. By Thursday her children called and said I should come back. I drove the 245 miles recalling memories from childhood and how happy I had been that day when they brought her home, I knew I had to be with her to the end…it would be my last gift.
For two days, we went in and out of her room telling her how strong she was and how we loved her. Her son-in-law read scriptures to her. We knew that she was transitioning but also knew she could hear us and we wanted to be there to the end to comfort her and ease her as her final moments approached. I realized after a bit that subconsciously I was gently pushing her hair in place as I had done when she was a little girl. “You are doing such a great job honey, resting, just as we want you to do.” The hospice nurse told me to encourage her, to give her permission to leave but I just couldn’t use those words because she believed until the last moment that she would be ok. All I could say, was “You are doing such a good job honey, resting just as we want you to do.” I felt in my heart that she simply couldn’t accept her death approaching and it was ok. Helping her leave on her terms, being comforted by the ones she loved, was the last gift that we could give to her.
On Saturday, July 6th a couple of minutes after 6:00 pm she ‘flew on the wings of eagles” just as her favorite scripture said the faithful would do. Yes, it was hard, there were so many tears from all of us but we gave her the love, joy and comfort that she needed. I believe the greatest gift one can give is the ability to be there for someone you love…just as I was when she was born. Be there…physically and mentally until the last breath if at all possible. We love them into this world and what a blessing to love them into the next. We all had given her many gifts over the years, but this last gift was perhaps, the greatest gift of all.