Two days ago was my first recovery day from a very fun, very exhausting trip. One where I stayed up too late and woke up too early every day for six days. A trip that I got to spend time with family I rarely see. It was glorious.
And now, I wish I had spent more time with my sister… because according to everything we know… she is going to die. And before that, she will suffer… I knew going into this new year that this was probably the last year I would get to spend with her… And yet it is too soon. I am not ready. Stacie is not the person I used to know and she hasn’t been for three years, and yet… I am not ready. She is only 46, with four children, two children-in-love (daughter’s-in-law), and a granddaughter. Not one of us is really, truly ready. We know that she is struggling, deteriorating, and that death can finally bring her peace… and that is a good thing. However, I always hoped for a miracle. And even though I trust that God is good, all the time, and I know that His decisions and purpose don’t always match mine, it hurts and it is scary and absolutely devastating. If I had my druthers, my sister would have no tumors and would be herself. She would be that well spoken, insightful, funny person I have always known. She would be able to be each of her childrens’ best friend, because she always was. She was the best listener, biggest cheerleader, and an amazing counselor. She was funny, smart, well spoken, wise, and so sincere and loving. She was stubborn, sarcastic, and bossy, and yet all those attributes were somehow charming.
She taught me to value college from a young age. Stacie taught me to be who I am without apologizing. She taught me that life can hurt, but that good can come from that hurt. She was our rock. Me, my brothers, her children, and even my parents, to some degree. She held us up to the highest standards because she knew we could meet them. And I would die laughing with her, because she was so very funny.
I will never get the chance to be her equal… her friend, because before I could grow up enough, take responsibility in the way that she had demonstrated to me, she got sick. Her brain got attacked by cancer… I will never get to show her the adult I have become. We will never be best friends, like I always hoped we would one day be. But she will always be one of my very favorite people. Someone I look up to, aspire to be like. If I could be the mom she was, the wife she was, the woman she was, and have the kind of wisdom and grace she had and has… I will be incredibly blessed. I always aspired to be like her. And I think I probably always will.
Cancer is one of the hardest things to go through, regardless of whether you are the victim or a family member or friend. This insidious disease takes everything away from you. It takes your security, your confidence, your future… But what it can never steal is your hope, your love, your wisdom, your overall strength, and your compassion.
There have been so many people that I have known that have lost the most important people in their lives. Be it to cancer or another disease. These people are usually the ones with the most love and compassion. They know what that kind of loss feels like and that it never goes away. They often reach out to those who suffer with a gentle hand and words about their experiences that might soothe your heart or help you know you are not alone. Whether I lose my sister today or months from now… or even years from now, it will be too soon. I will be so grateful she will finally be at peace, but I will miss her so very much… And I will be so sad to not have her here. Experiencing the big moments in her children’s lives, not being with her husband, not having sass with her parents or harrassing her siblings for missing Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays, weddings… not having HER at Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays, weddings…
My sister always gave me such strength… and such hope… I remember when our parents got into a huge accident and we didn’t know what was going to happen, if they would be okay, if they were paralyzed; we just knew they were hospitalized in Arizona and that could change… she was the one that made the phone call to us siblings. I’ll never forget all the air sucking out of my lungs and my heart jumping into my throat as she said, “Mom and Dad are okay, but… they were in a big accident and might need surgery…” I can’t even remember all she said as my ears started to ring and the sounds seemed to disappear. All I knew was I needed to get to them. Stacie knew the same. So, the two of us started driving to Arizona, not exactly knowing what was going to happen, receiving and making phone calls to keep the brothers up to date, to find out if one parents was staying in Arizona and one was getting flown to Las Vegas, then to hear that the opposite parent was staying and the other flying, to finally find out that they were both going to Las Vegas (praise God). All the while just driving, trying to figure out how to get to them and finally switching directions to Las Vegas. This was one of the very first times that I felt like we were in something together. In fact, that trip changed the course of my life, but that’s a story for another day.
A couple years after she had gotten sick and had been diagnosed with this aggressive brain cancer… I distinctly remember needing to call my brothers and let them know that she was not doing so well… It was in 2015… That was the first time that I was so very aware that I was the one that would need to step up. Not because anyone asked me to be, but because my sister couldn’t do it anymore. She wasn’t there to make those hard phone calls. As I said, my sister was always our rock… As women tend to be in families… And now that my sister is no longer able to be that person I realized that it was now my responsibility. Out of respect for her and the desire to take any more burden off my parents and brother-in-law, I didn’t question it and took up that mantle.
I will never get to be best friends with my sister as I always imagined…but I can still love her for who she is and who she was. I can be there for her and her family. And I will miss her in a way that is absolutely undescribable… We all will.
Seeing her fight through three years of cancer, with everything she has… has been some of the hardest three years of all of our lives. And yet, she is still one of the smartest and wise people I know, even though she can’t remember the amazing advice she has given me. Earlier this year, we were talking about a hardship I was going through and she was so present and gave me such great insight, as she always had, and for a moment it was like she was herself again. Then a few minutes later, she asked me a question that demonstrated she had forgotten the whole conversation. That’s what has been so sad and hard through this. Stacie was still her, but she had lost her ability to connect to and invest in people in the way that was always so uniquely her. That was one of the things she was so passionate about. Investing in people, knowing them inside and out, and remembering all the details. Don’t get me wrong… I still hold on to those conversations. It was just hard to know she couldn’t.
I remember this one time when I went over to my sister and brother-in-love’s house, to hang out with her while my brother-in-love (brother-in-law) went out for a little while. The garage door was open and they were sitting at Darren’s workbench. Well, Stacie was sitting. Darren was cleaning some sort of part. Not sure if it was work related (he owns an appliance repair company, Maslyn & Sons) or if was a part from one of their many hobbies, but regardless, they were both listening to an old recording of my sister speaking to a group of women at MOPS… it was one of the most surreal experiences ever. Here was my sister listening to a recording of how she once was…. and the difference was so striking and so heartbreaking… all at once. This woman, so well spoken, funny, insightful, sharing some of her struggles and the things she has learned to hundreds of other women. The laughs in the background at the jokes she would make. Even in a recording, her presence filled the room. And sitting here next to me, was this new version of her. I still had my sister, we still had this woman with so much life and laughter, but it was a ghost of who she used to be.
I can’t even imagine what it is like for her. Knowing she is not herself, wanting to devour books as she used to do and not being able to follow the story because she forgets what she previously read, wanting to keep up on her children’s lives, but never able to remember the details to follow up and be able to give her wonderful advice with all the facts. Now, not being able to stand on her own, her left side failing her and her right side not strong enough to compensate much. Watching her look at her fingers on her left hand, telling them to move, expending so much mental effort to see nothing happen. And then she takes her right hand and flips one of the fingers and we all laugh, because we never qualified how she was to wiggle her finger. There you are, Stacie. Still funny, still a little mischievous.
I know she will be so much happier and so much more at peace when she gets to go home to Heaven, but I will miss her so much… she has always been one of my favorite people. It will always hurt that she is not here. And don’t get me wrong, she was my sister, not a saint. There were times when I was so upset with her, or she was too bossy, or too nosey, or too whatever. But, quite frankly, I would do anything to get all that back. Anything.
Having said that, even having the faith that I have… it is so hard letting her go. Even feeling like she is safe in Heaven is sad, because I don’t get to have her here. I don’t get to have her wisdom and her love right here with me, easily accessible, as someone I can just call and ask… I still struggle with that today, because there are so many things I would just text, email, call, and run up her flagpole. And I can’t now. None of us can. And that really, really sucks.
I’m not ready to be the one who is accountable to everyone else. I’m not ready to be the only girl, the only daughter… but that doesn’t matter, because regardless of whether I am ready or not… it will or will not happen… I may no longer be one part of the book end of the two daughters. I may just be the only one left. It’s not up to me…
And even with the knowledge that God is in control and the trust I have in Him, I can’t seem to pull it together. I love my sister. I respect my sister. As I have said, she is one of my favorite people ever, no matter what kind of difficulties we had. I always wanted to be like her… And I’m so very sad that I don’t get to ever be one of her actual friends… I kept waiting to be old enough, established enough, adult enough. But it wasn’t fast enough. Who knew?
I’m so very devastated for her kids, as well. No one will replace their mom. No one could or should. She is one of a kind. And her husband, their father, is a man… which is so very different. He has SO much going for him that will bless them in incredible ways, but being a man is just different. Which just makes it that much harder… because there is no one that can really numb that pain even the teeniest bit. I wish I could, I think we all do at some point, but moms are irreplaceable.
Darren. He is the gift of this whole, terrible mess. The tenderness he shows Stacie, the love and care. It is incredible. Beautiful. Awe inspiring. To have another human love you that much. That’s something special. He calls her his queen. He always has. He has stood up for her in a way that none of us could even fathom. Things you couldn’t anticipate. What an absolute blessing to behold and to get to have him in our lives. I am so heartbroken for him. And again, I can’t do anything about it. Just pray and love.
So… all of this being said, I guess the bottom line is no one can replace my sister. No one can numb that pain. No one can fill her shoes. Because she is amazing… unique, smart, insightful, funny, and kind. I miss her today. WE miss her today. And unless that miracle happens, we will miss her for always.
I believe that miracle can happen. But if it doesn’t, I don’t believe God has failed me, or us… I just believe He has a different plan than we do. I, or we, may never know what that is, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
My sister’s favorite verse, and one that brings me peace because of her, is Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”