Some of you know already, but many of you don’t, that my sister Laura died suddenly and unexpectedly Friday, August 17th. It was a devastating blow to receive a phone call from the Whitman County coroner asking if she was my sister and to tell me she had died. I heard myself uttering the same words upon the pronouncement as when the nurse told me my husband Russell had died…..”Noooooo….!”
It was a small blessing that she died in her sleep, quickly, painlessly from a ‘cardiac event’. The coroner explained that Laura’s different medical conditions such as the diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.,over time took their toll on her heart.
I need to let you know what is in my heart about my sister, think of it as my tribute to her…….
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Laura was the sister I was closest to; we had talked a minimum of 3 times a week over the last 10-15 years. I’d long ago owned up to her about my own juvenile failings as her big sister and how I hadn’t even liked her very much when we were kids. We made our peace about that time in our lives and, as we started to know each other as the more mature adults we now were, I came to recognize that she was the sister I’d always wanted: she called me, she expressed her love for me, we laughed and cried together over the mundane and the intimate. I will always be grateful that I thought to tell her that, and I repeated that to her many times over. In our last conversation she told me she’d always adored me as her big sister, and I repeated that she was the sister I always wanted. We always ended our conversations with I Love You. Even though we talked so frequently, and said I Love You frequently it still doesn’t seem like I expressed it enough. And there is another thing about our conversations: there is no one on this planet that has listened to me cry more over the last two years since Russell’s death than Laura. I don’t even have words for how much it means to me for the many times when all she did was just listen on the other end of the line while I sobbed, until I was all cried out. What an incredible gift she gave me with her presence on the other end of the line. It’s hard knowing that my phone will not ring as often now that she has died.
I’d always worried about her. She, along with one of our cousins, lost the genetic toss of the dice and inherited the genes for a mental health problem. It was always hard for her to be in this world because of it. It was hard being a bystander and witnessing how hard life was for her. She was into her 40’s before the medical community was able to more completely identify and treat her position on the mental health spectrum. I’m grateful that treatment gave her the ability to develop more trust and faith in the people around her. It allowed her to trust me enough to let me into her life, so that we could enjoy being sisters together like we never had before.
While Laura’s son Chris, his wife Elizabeth and I were in Pullman taking care of the many details involved in finalizing a loved one’s affairs and attending the memorial we got to know the people that were her “Pullman family”. I’d sensed through the years that there were people in her life who cared about her but I had no idea there were so MANY; her Mormon church “family”, her Northwest Trailways bus “family” (she was the Pullman bus agent), her friends. Everywhere we went people shared our same sense of shock, and loss. The love these people shared for Laura, the compassion, their kind acceptance of her just as she was has touched my heart and filled it to overflowing again and again. THIS is what I’d longed for Laura to have in her life and bless her soul, she found it, created it, in Pullman in spite of the genetic legacy she was dealt.
I’m still reeling from those 2 weeks. I’d barely started getting used to not having Russell in my life. I’m not sure what to make of life now that my sister is gone also. I know that I will need all of your help to remember why I’m supposed to be in this world without them.
Thank you each and every one of you for your loving presence in my life.