The earliest memory I have of my sister was of her putting a plastic guitar into my 4-year-old hands and informing me that we were putting a show on for our parents. The Beenie Tweenies was the name of our group, yes that was really it. Catchy. But even before then she was an influence on my life, when my mom was pregnant, way before ultra sounds, yes I’m old, they were convinced I was to be the second daughter, even had a nice girly name picked out for me. Lisa. Surprise surprise when I showed up as a boy and they had no name. So my parents did what any new parents would have done, they turned the job of naming me over to their 3 1/2 year old daughter. And that’s how I was given the name Bruce, if they had gotten a puppy first he would have probably been Bruce and I would have ended up with Myron or Roger or something else that three-year olds like.
As she grew she took dance and she was a natural. I can remember getting drug along to dance class 40 miles away twice a week and watching her and the other girls dance while my mother and I waited. As I got older dad and I did baseball, basketball, fishing but my mom and sister were always at dance. As I got even older I looked forward to the recitals, partly because of all the older cute girls that were my sisters classmates but mostly I loved to watch her dance and so did my parents. As she would search for music for her next performance my dad would always tell her, pick something that starts slow and then speeds up so you can and start off with ballet and switch to Jazz, yes this was a hardcore, tough diesel mechanic giving his daughter advice on dance. I guess we were all captivated by her talent.
Then, there was her heart, as she aged it grew bigger and bigger. Three and a half years a part, a distance that could have been awkward for some siblings, we hardly ever fought. When she was 16 and able to drive, out of the blue one day she asked me if I wanted to go to the movies, and her and I went alone together to see Grease. Now she may have just been so excited to see that dancing movie that she would have taken anybody. But that memory will forever be etched in my mind, my big sister, who I always looked up to, took me to the movies.
And when she started college and had her own apartment with two roommates, she would have me over for lunch. I worked nearby and she would invite me over. She would offer to make a picnic lunch for a buddy and I who had a hot double date with two cuties. It seemed her thoughtfulness had no ending.
Then she got married and had a beautiful family one son and two daughters, my nieces and nephew, oh how she loved those kids. Then she moved away and when we would visit I don’t think I ever saw her sit down, making dinner, deserts. Cleaning and laundry, all the time with that big radiant smile, never once a complaint. Sometimes I would fall asleep only to wake up about 1:00 AM and still hear her up and about.
You know how this goes, once someone passes you wish you would have told them more often how much they meant to you, and yes I wish I would have told her how much she meant to me, but you always think you have more time. I do however have one moment I’m proud of. It’s the last time I took my three girls to Texas to visit over Thanksgiving. As usual she was going 90 MPH the whole time and sending me to the store about once an hour for something she still needed, that was my job. But once everything was ready and we all sat down, someone suggested we all say one thing we were thankful for. When it was my turn, it finally hit me and I said, “I’m thankful for my sister who works so hard to make everyone else so happy.” Without a word, she got up and came and gave me a hug, with tears in her eyes. To this day, those are the proudest words that I have ever spoken.
And it didn’t stop there, her kindness I mean. When her kids were out on their own, she was buying groceries for homeless people in Cincinnati, and then suddenly it all came to a halt on the day she died. I started my spiritual path when I was 19 and first discovered the martial arts and eastern wisdom, studying everything I could get my hands on over the last 31 years I can truly say that we are here for a few reasons, one of the most important is to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Self sacrifice. Although my sister died way too young in the eyes of everyone she left behind I will argue that in her short life she made more of a positive difference in the lives of others than most of us will do even by living to 100.
And once again it didn’t end there, I see the same generosity and thoughtfulness in her son. I see her wittiness, beauty and charm in her daughters. And when I’m having a bad day I think about her message on her cell phone when she didn’t pick up. “Smile a lot!” And I do, just like her, and something reminds me that even though we miss her, everything is going to be alright.
Have a great week.