After my sister died from breast cancer on April 1, 2005, I wrote a tribute to her to read at her funeral. I wanted everyone to know my sister, to know how she enriched my life, to know what losing her meant to me and to anyone who knew her. I wish everyone knew her. On this day, the sixth anniversary of her death, maybe reading this tribute will help you know her just a little. Maybe she will even still be able to teach us all how to live our lives with hope and love.
To know my sister Patricia is to know a special kind of courage. My sister’s approach to life was to enjoy it and to find the good in it no matter what obstacles may come along. She taught me the real meaning of hope, compassion for others, acceptance of difficult days, and love of family.
Growing up, Patsy was the big sister everyone should have. We are two very different people, but that turned out to be a good thing. She’s the extrovert, the efficiency expert, the one who always needs to be in control. I’m the introvert, the shy, quiet one who turned to her always for advice, who leaned on her even during her illness for my own strength.
When we were young children, she used to try to convince me I was adopted, sending me scurrying to the baby books for evidence I was not. But she accepted our differences while trying to draw me more into her world. I remember hot summer days when she would pull me away from the book I was reading to take walks with her through the fields behind our house. We walked through fields of daisies, yellow buttercups, black-eyed Susans. Without my sister I would never have known the beauty of wild flowers at such an early age.
In cold winter months when I wanted to stay inside with a good book, she would get me to go outside with her to go sledding. Without my sister I would never have known as a child the joy of sliding down the cold crunchy snow breathing in the fresh clear air of winter.
My sister’s teenage years nearly drove my parents crazy as she began to seek adventure and new experiences. I loved witnessing the moments of trouble she got into. Even then, she tried to set rules for us, trying to control her world. She always had a boyfriend and the phone became a real issue in our house. No one, especially me, was to answer the phone during the hours her boyfriend usually called. One night she decided to take a bubble bath before he called. But that night he called early. When the phone rang, we all froze, unsure what to do. Suddenly, the door to the upstairs bathroom opened and my sister appeared at the top of the stairs wrapped in a towel and covered with suds. She took one step onto the stairs, slipped, and slid down the steps off the open landing and onto the floor. Without missing a beat, she got up, ran over to the phone, and began to talk in a calm voice as if nothing had happened. My dad joked that if he had just gotten there in time, he could have opened up the front door and she would have slid right out onto the front porch. Without my sister, I would not have learned what determination can do.
One time she enrolled in a beauty school course. I think the lesson that week must have been how to thin your eyebrows. One morning she was late to breakfast, but she finally came down, sat in her chair, and asked us to pass her the cereal, ignoring our open-mouthed stares as we searched her face for any sign of eyebrows. Apparently she had overdone the plucking, but she never mentioned it, eating her breakfast as if everything was totally normal. That was often her way. Pretend everything is normal and fine and maybe, just maybe, it will be.
My sister was a special person who chose nursing as a career and became a compassionate person who loved taking care of the youngest children in her school, and who later nursed both her husband and our father through their illnessess with a caring love. Without my sister, I would never have seen compassion.
When she became ill, she continued her high-energy lifestyle when she could and never gave up hope that she would survive it all. Without my sister, I would never have seen hope.
And now I am truly without my sister. I will miss her smile, her words of encouragement, her sensible advice which to me was often, “Oh, get over it” or “It’s no big deal.” Everyone who knew my sister has Pat stories. Those stories and memories will keep her alive in all our hearts.