Tuesday, March 4, 2008

After an Epic Battle, Peace

This is the most difficult post I have ever written, but not for the reason you might think after you read the next four words: My sister died yesterday.

So, why is this difficult for me to write about? It isn't because writing brings up memories and pain that I'd rather not stir. On the contrary, I find writing to be a helpful exercise, so this is really quite therapeutic. The difficulty comes when I try to abide by one of her requests. As I was talking with my sister about her ability to make doom-saying doctors look silly (by living years longer than they expected), she admonished me to not make her girls think she was some sort of super woman. This puts a major constraint on my natural tendency to tell her story as I saw it. As a matter of fact, the first draft of this post was titled "My Sister Kicked Butt," but I shelved that version in favor of this.

My sister was a cheerleader and homecoming princess in high school, then an economics major and president of the student body at Wellesley College. She then went on to get an MBA at Harvard and then put her financial skills to work as a corporate financier, then as President and COO of a health services company. In this first act of her life, she kicked major butt. Along the way, she ran in the NYC Marathon, had two beautiful daughters, and impressed everyone she knew with her intelligence, work ethic, and personal strength.

Act 2 begins when she is diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 (when her girls were 3 and 1.5.) I won't go into all the details of her treatments, but suffice it to say that she endured numerous treatments including chemo, radiation, and surgery, but also highly experimental treatments (such as 3 times with a gamma knife and a very experimental trial with autologous bone marrow transplant). On more than one occasion, doctors gave her a short time to live, but she outlived these dire predictions over and over again. Anyone who knew her only after 1993 knew she was a good person, a great mother, and a determined fighter.

Anyway, she was an incredible woman and my first evidence for this is the number and quality of her friends from college, grad school, business, and neighborhoods who have been absolutely devoted to helping her and her girls. The support her friends have provided is absolutely amazing and speaks to the quality of my sister's character over the years. The other evidence is her girls. Their mother was very unhealthy for most of their lives, but they have come through it. They are both smart, kind kids who are headed in the right direction. They were the reason for her perseverance over these past years. Everything she did from the treatments to making doctor after doctor look silly was for her girls. I am so proud of them and of her.

My Girl Kid got her middle name from my sister and I am hopeful that along with the name comes some of my sister's brains, strength, and determination. I hope that Girl Kid is a better driver (my sister was a weapon behind the wheel), but aside from that I hope Girl Kid can channel my sister's spirit.

OK. That's it. I could go on and on and on about her, but will keep it short. This post is so incredibly inadequate, but it's all I can do in a short space and without making her out to be a super woman. She is finally enjoying well-deserved rest after an incredible battle and I am happy for her. Her legacy lives on in all of us who knew her, but especially in her girls.

The Day
  • Workout: short run
  • Music: Led Zep, Michael Jackson, Booker T. & The MG's, Vince Guaraldi Trio


Sasha said...

That was absolutely beautiful, and I'm so glad you wrote it. And you're right ... she kicked serious butt.

reston kid said...

thanks. every time i think about what my nieces are going through, i think about what you went through and it gives me confidence that they can find happiness.

Sasha said...

They will, but it will take time as it will for all of you. I'm just glad they have you there to say it's okay to have a "C" day every now and then ...

Anonymous said...

I have to agree...this was absolutely beautiful. I am very sorry for your loss but as you said so eloquently, "She is finally enjoying well-deserved rest."