Sister Debbie, a long time ago, cutting our Christmas trees. I like to think she entered heaven’s gates just like this!
As many of you may have learned, Country Woman Magazine recently chose me as Country Woman of the Year 2017. I couldn’t be happier to have been selected among many other country women nominated across the U.S. and Canada. I don’t open my story to brag on myself. After all, I’m just a dot in the big scheme of things. I’m just a Brown County, Ohio writer, sharing my stories with a little humor, a life lesson here and there, or sharing my farm girl roots.
But, with that being said, as many of you know, it is a bittersweet time for my family. The book I spoke of back in the summer, that took a long time to birth—over fifty years that dream held tight to me—was finally published. Of that I am proud but let’s talk about that big “elephant” sitting in the room. I learned this phrase in a business meeting once upon a time. When I first heard the phrase I must have looked ridiculous looking around the room for that darn elephant. Of course there was none. The “elephant” was an issue no one dared to address, not an elephant at all. So I’m going to share the elephant in my life right now, sitting on my chest.
As many know if you follow me, a little over a year ago, sister Debbie was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. UGH! We were so hopeful that we’d have more years than the one she was allotted. She pushed, she shoved and she fought cancer as best she could. So here’s the elephant —sadly she died last week. UGH! If you’ve followed my farmgirl stories, or will, as many are in my book with my anecdotes, you will find that who I am today was partially because she was my big sister, my “teacher” being almost four years older.
Like most kids of our era, we played school after school and I learned much from her.The lesson I have to share today, from her also, are ones we should all know, but fall away from because we think there is always tomorrow.Though we hurt in the thought of loosing our loved one—and believe me there were times we fought as kids— we always made up, because Mom promised to lock us in a room together until we did! So we let it go and made up—our loved ones can teach us even amidst the shadow of death.
Farmgirls! Debbie and Sherry.
Because of sister’s diagnosis, I was compelled to finally get serious about compiling our stories in a book so she would be well enough to enjoy it too. When I received my first author’s copy, I wrapped it in pretty paper with a ginormous bow and gifted it to her.“It’s a real book,” she said surprisingly. Inside, unbeknownst to her, I dedicated it to her with a poem,Two Little Farm Girls. (So bittersweet now.)
So if I can push that elephant off my chest now, I’ll share these words given me only twenty two days before she passed. “Debbie,” I said, “ you are my teacher—what words of wisdom do you have for me?” I recorded in my journal her words…”Don’t take people for granted. If your’re mad—get mad—then get over it. Spend time with your family.” Last I saw her this side of heaven, the afternoon before, I said, “Debbie, I’m going to keep writing about us, and if you are not here when I get back…I’ll know where to find you.” I kissed her cheek, and with that, I am sure she winked with a closed eye.I share her last earthly lesson with you my friends, in her memory.
So Here’s the Thing: Often times, life can be bittersweet. Finally I got my book published only to loose sister the week before the launch. Bittersweet. Through the year, I visited weekly. In fact, we coined a new phrase: We do Wednesdays! It was a day set aside for our visit. something for her to look forward to instead of chemo treatments. If she felt up to it, we went to a restaurant for breakfast. (The afternoons found her too tired; mornings were best.) And mostly we talked about life, both then as girls and now as seasoned women. She wanted to still be “included” in this life. We talked briefly of “what comes next” and that is why I asked her to share one more life lesson as my teacher. “When you get there, you’ll see Dad and brother and…. Elvis!” We laughed with delight at that new thought! Laughter was our best medicine as it always has been so it made the bitter a whole lot sweeter.