Sunday, May 18, 2008

My sister and I have had several conversations over the past few years. She was suffering from a host of illnesses, physical and emotional, both real and imagined.
About four years ago,having never married nor had kids, she designated me her official 'next of kin' over-riding our parents (signed and notarized), in the event that anything ever happened to her.

I didn't really expect anything to happen to her in the foreseeable future. At the same time, I could never visualize her still being around when we would both be in our seventies. She lived five minutes at a time, never settling in one spot, never planning, nor prepared, for the next setback. And every couple of years would seek refuge on my sofa, or spare bedroom, for months at a time while waiting for the world to stop spinning. The last few years, it was as if I was raising another teenage daughter who hadn't yet found her maturity. I had become Big Brother to the elder sister who used to protect me from bullies,monsters, and dragons when I was a kid.

It's hard to hold the reins on a forty-something free spirit, but I did the best I could. Though I always expected we would say our goodbyes on one of our deathbeds, I take comfort in the knowledge that her death was immediate and painless, and that her final moments were filled with giggles and laughter, in the presence of a friend (he survived the crash with just a few cuts and bruises) she herself had taken in just as I had taken her in so many times before (and was due for another visit any time now).
But that was Mary.
If she had anything, she would share it. And when she had nothing, she would borrow it to share. She loved doing charity, and if not materially, then in spirit. When she wasn't riding her Harley (seems there's a charity run every month or so), she was doing something with needlepoint,paints or ink pens and giving those away to whoever happened by. Death did not end her giving, as she designated certain parts to be donated to help others.
She jealously guarded her power tools and her Tinker Bell collection. She was every kid's favorite 'Aunt Mary'; best friend to every friend; the life of any party; and the best sister a guy could ever have.

As I eulogised my sister, and looked out over the crowd of attendees: from educated professionals to economic losers; some 200 people from all walks of life, (even high school friends she hasn't seen in years, but still traveled, some up to 2,000 miles, to be there), I realized just how significant an ordinarily insignificant life can be.
It's not who we are that matters as much as who we touch. And we only feel loss because first we felt love.

I've spent much of the time since her death locked in emotional combat with our mother. Mary wanted certain things done a certain way. I even managed to hire a bagpiper.
Mom has other ideas. It hasn't been easy making decisions and preparations, and then playing the mind trick with Mom so that she thinks it's actually her decisions being implemented. Mostly, I've succeeded. But new issues crop up every day.
As it stands now, Mom is refusing to speak to me after I went and cleared out my sister's place without her. Tried to explain to her that everybody has something they would rather their parents not discover,and that I vowed to protect her privacy, and that is just the way it's going be.
This is my last chance to do Mary right. There aren't any do-overs on this one. No starting over. No turning back. I buried her with every dignity, and I'm not about to blemish her now. No. Her secrets will remain. And Mom will just have to live with that.

8 comments:

Allan said...

Well said and well done.

Bike Bubba said...

Hang in there....and well done for your sister.

kingdavid said...

When you have to look at yourself every day in the mirror, beside seeing a fine looking, swarthy Italian, you're going to see a guy who did his best, and probably above and beyond, for someone he loved. You don't have to ask any more of yourself than that.

Hats off to you Gino.

Mike said...

What a great tribute...it always amazes me how the worst of times can bring out the best in us. You're doing right by your sister. Keep it going!

Jade said...

You are a good brother... your mom will get over it. Hang in there, you've done the right thing.

The Law Fairy said...

What a beautiful tribute to your sister. I agree, your mom will understand someday. You're doing the right thing, you sound like a great brother.

Mark Heuring said...

Gino, you are spot on. It's awfully hard to keep one's perspective in such circumstances and I admire you greatly for doing so.

Gino said...

thank you, all.