Just 14 months apart in age, Bettye and Gloria spent a lifetime together. Working at the same summer job as teenagers, living around the corner from each other, babysitting each other’s kids as young mothers, even taking up the surprising (to us anyway) hobby of square dancing with their respective spouses when their nests were empty. And sharing all life’s ups and downs in their always frequent phone calls.
They were my favorite aunts. I loved the times I shared with them, separately yes, but especially when they were together at family events, like picnics, reunions, weddings and birthdays. What wit and conversation! I think they could have taken their sister act on the road and gotten rave reviews. I’m just glad all of us were lucky enough to be in their family audience.
We were on vacation the last two weeks, our little family of three traveling back in time through 400 years to visit Jamestowne to Yorktown, Williamsburg to Gettysburg, the Liberty Bell to Capitol Hill. So much history! But as we toured, I had no idea that I was about to lose an integral piece of my own personal history as I visited with George and Ben and Thomas. When we returned from our journey on Saturday night, I learned that my inimitable Aunt Gloria has passed away just a day before.
Having lost my dad – her ‘baby’ brother – just nine months ago, losing Aunt Gloria so soon after hit me hard. Surely not as hard as for my Uncle Billy – her lifelong love of over sixty years – or my cousins Suzy, Sandra and Billy and all their families. Or as her beloved, slightly older sister, Bettye. But hard all the same, because I’ve come to realize that I’m never ‘ready’ to lose those I love. No matter the age, illness or circumstances.
They are part of us; where we’ve come from – our own personal history. And what they share with us while we’re together has a real influence on how we choose to live our lives and where we might be going. My memories are many and very vivid of the times I spent with my extended family, and as my cousin Suzanne reminded us: “Only your family really knows you and where you came from.” Special relationships indeed.
Although my life has been shared with my three wonderful brothers, I never had a little sister. But as I’ve gone through my life, I’ve adopted and chosen a number of sisters for myself (you know who you are!!!) There may be nothing that compares with sharing life from birth, but with sister role models like Bettye and Gloria, I’ve tried to make my sister-friendships as loving and supportive as I’ve always seen theirs to be.
Sisters by birth. Sisters by choice. Take time today to tell the special sisters and sister-women in your life how much they mean to you. Celebrate your own personal history before time – and the chance – goes by.