Remembering

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my sister’s death.  Each time it has come around on the calendar, my mind goes back to that hospital room, where I was with her husband and 2 sons, when she drew her last breath at noon on that cloudy January day.

All of a sudden, the sun came out, and a bright ray fell directly on her.  I imagined that it was God welcoming her soul at that very minute.  We were all so very aware of it.

I had never actually witnessed a death before.  It was sort of surreal.  We all knew when she had left us, but we continued to sit around the bed.  No nurses came in to scold us that that we were more than the 2 visitors usually allowed at the time.  I was grateful.  We waited for what seemed like an eternity for a medical professional to come to “officially” pronounce the death.  Still, no one wanted to move.

I stepped out to make some phone calls to other friends and relatives, letting them know the sad news.  To this day, it stills seems like a dream.  A few more loved ones arrived to be with us, comfort us. My other sister left to be with our elderly parents, who were not at the hospital at the time, to tell them in person.  Even though we all knew it was inevitable, it still hurt.

After a few hours, the nurses told us that my sister would be transferred to the funeral home.  We all knew we needed to go…somewhere out of the hospital.

When I have pent up energy or emotion, I cook.  At that moment, I knew I needed to cook for my entire family that day.  I left the hospital and ran to the food store to get the fixings for pasta and gravy—our ultimate comfort food.  I only had a few hours to put dinner together, while my brother in law made final arrangements for his wife.

Just before I was able to leave the store, there was a dousing rain, literally a sheet of water, preventing people from getting to their cars.  You couldn’t even see a foot in front of you.  And of course, I had no umbrella.  So I waited in the vestibule with the other stranded shoppers.

When the rain let up somewhat, I hurried to my car, dodging the few remaining rain drops.  I don’t know why I looked up into the sky, as I was putting the key into the car door lock.  But there, right above me it seemed, was a beautiful rainbow!  I truly felt it was my sister telling me not to worry, that she was OK.

Incredibly, my entire family saw the rainbow at much the same time, from different vantage points, depending on where they were.  We all talked about it at dinner that night, and agreed that it was a sign.  Not that there was much conversation.  We were still very much shell shocked—the death did not come quickly or easily.  There were many months of night time vigils at the hospital bed, of taking shifts during the day, of talking with doctor.  We experienced the high hopes of a treatment that seemed to be working, and the devastation upon learning of complications from those treatments.  We always tried to make sure that there was at least one family member or close friend with her at all times, in case she needed anything. We thought our tenacity would miraculously cause her recovery.   Tragically, that was not to be.

The next week was a blur of funeral preparations.  The wake was a tribute to how my sister touched so many lives.  I was overcome at the sheer number of people who came to pay tribute and celebrate her life.  It humbled me as well.

The morning of the funeral mass, it was drizzling and miserable.  We drove our cars in procession from the funeral home to the church.  As the lead cars were rounding a corner, and we caught site of the church, what did we see just above it, but another beautiful rainbow!  We were convinced—Patty was with us, and intended to keep checking up on us, and this was her sign of hope to us.

That may have been the beginning of my journey to understand the spiritual, and to contemplate the existence of a realm we cannot see, but is very real nonetheless.

I try to keep my heart and mind open to signs from Heaven, from my sister.  In this life, she was a strong, smart, resourceful and wickedly funny woman.  I think if anyone could get through the veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead, it would be her!

I will always remember she told me, from her hospital bed, no less, and not long before she died, that she wanted to throw me a birthday party, with a Jimmy Buffet, Caribbean theme.  She loved planning parties.

My birthday was 1 week after we laid her to rest.  Remember when I told you she was wickedly funny, with a sometimes dark sense of humor?  Well, on my birthday 3 years ago, we got almost 3 feet of snow!  So much for my Caribbean celebration!

Thanks a lot, Patty.  I miss you.

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