I’ve got only a couple of days before the month of July is over … to which I say, Good riddance, July! For those of you new to my blog, let me start with the painful acknowledgment of my sister’s death late on July 1. For context, I have three siblings and our birth order is as follows: oldest sister (C), Shirley, brother (G), and, finally, me. Shirley is (and always will be) my second sister, separated in age by just over 11 years. As I was growing up, she was probably more of a babysitter than a sister to me, an authoritative but protective figure; hence, my primal scream when I learned of her death.
We went to the viewing, the funeral, and the burial with my 98-year-old mother in tow. Admittedly, I was initially surprised that my mom wanted to go at all. The grief etched on her face was often difficult to bear. No parent should outlive their child, and the anguish in her open-mouthed but silent howl broke our hearts many times over. After the burial, when I thought for sure she’d head for her bed, she sat in her chair and asked, “So what’s next? Where are we going?”
“To the Auspelmyer’s [my sister’s home]. There will be food. Do you want to come?”
“Well, yeah. I don’t want to miss anything.”
I think I found the secret to my mother’s longevity: She doesn’t want to miss anything.
I want to share this memorial card. I think it was my oldest nephew who selected the poem. It’s perfect. It’s how I want to think of Shirley. Not gone, but always with us, in our hearts.
Here also is a link to her obituary: Shirley Auspelmyer. If you have time, a lovely 9-minute video is also on the website.
Shirley and I started to become close after I left home and crashed my way into adulthood. With every passing year, we missed each other more. When both of us started showing gray hair, the difference between us of 11 years became irrelevant. It didn’t matter that we were a bit like night and day. Shirley had embraced the life of a traditional wife, marrying at 19 and embarking on her sole mission in life: raising a family. She wanted children and grandchildren. She especially loved babies.
I didn’t marry until I was 32 and after I had made sure I’d never have children. I like kids well enough, and I always had fun playing with my grandniece and grandnephews when I visited home. But I didn’t have a mission in life, a desire to propagate unless you consider raising a herd of cats a mission. Although we had our differences, and maybe because of those differences, my sister knew me better than I often knew myself.
For my 30th birthday, she sent me a book of poems. Does anyone recognize this book? I’ve kept it now for 35 years. The pages are brittle but still intact.
Shirley attached a note with the book, and I’ve opened the book to a poem that reminds me of my sister.
The “Ted” she refers to was our neighbor who treated us as if we were his own children. Growing up, Saturdays were shopping days with Ted. He’d buy us anything we wanted. As we got older, Shirley and I became less interested in what Ted might buy us and more satisfied just being with him.
I miss my sister. I won’t ever stop missing her, but I know I need to resume my life. I’m taking baby steps. I’m in no hurry.
Marie A Bailey
Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.