Over the weekend I was honored to partake in two celebrations: one of a new life and one of a death. Our nephew and his girlfriend (who I hadn’t met yet) are having a baby and this past weekend was a perfect time for everyone to get together to celebrate the new baby girl to come. I used to have all sorts of anxiety over attending showers (too long, too boring, too many crazy games!) but several years ago I had a mind shift about them and saw them for what they were: an important moment in a person’s life as we honor a transition to a beautiful new life stage. Whenever I am invited now, I think of it as an honor bestowed.
It’s also an opportunity to reconnect with people we haven’t seen in a while. To put away our phones and our Facebook timelines to make new (in real life) memories. There are always new people to meet too and the nephew’s girlfriend (and her parents) are wonderful and a balm to the family they are joining with. My nephew lost his twin brother in 2016, to addiction, and it has been a heartbreaking journey for them. To witness this happiness in their lives is a joy. And yes, there were games, and I came away with a prize or two.
My sister, Wendy, lost her best friend last week after a very short but frenetic battle with Mesothelioma, a devastating cancer that annhilates the lining of the lungs. Thérèse had chosen my sister to be her person for this journey and while she didn’t want anyone else to know how bad or how serious her illness was, I was witness from the sidelines and knew how hard it was going to be for Wendy in the end. Wendy is as compassionate, fight-ready and feisty as they come. A force to be reckoned with.
Thérèse passed away last Tuesday, the day I hiked with Liam. As I was climbing Buck Mountain, she was on my mind and kept me going. Limited as my lungs are, hers had failed her completely and I would do this for her. Once I got home I checked in with my sister on how Thérèse was doing but didn’t hear from her until I saw a text the next morning that she had died shortly after I sent my text. I knew she would need me and I hoped I could be there for her.
We spoke on the phone Wednesday and I could feel her grief through the line. The wake was to be on Sunday and the funeral Monday and that’s where I’ve been for the last two days. Sitting with her. Hugging her. Listening. Feeling helpless but present. It was the least I could do.
The first time I met Thérèse was three years ago after my mom passed away. It was the day we were going to bury her, on Mother’s Day weekend, and Thérèse showed up at our house and was an invisible presence – putting food out, cleaning things up, hugging anyone who walked by. I asked my sister who this amazing woman was, who would show up for a family like that? Thérèse and I laughed and cried that day and she messaged me later how honored she was to be there for us. She thanked me for letting her be there for us. And that is just a snippet of this lovely woman my sister lost from her life.
I don’t know why life unfolds the way it does. It just does. We are here to participate and observe. To listen and learn. To suit up and show up. I’ve learned this from my sister, my friend.