Today it has been six months since my big sister Donna lost her long fight with breast cancer. It has been an emotional day for me, and a day that has been full of many different thoughts. Thoughts of disbelief, as I still don’t completely “get it” that my sister is gone. Thoughts of anger, as I just don’t understand why God took her. And underneath it all, always a deep, deep sadness.
But Donna, while she would understand my questioning and anger and sadness, because she had it all at times, she would also want me to just remember our closeness, and our friendship, and our sisterhood. So today, I’m just going to remember six of the many, many things that I learned from my big sister. In no particular order:
1. Donna taught me how to be generous. More than anyone I’ve ever known, Donna was always giving of herself. She was giving her time, her talents, her energy, her advice, her gifts, her smile. Whatever she had to give, she would give it. I will always remember her generosity.
2. Donna taught me how to make some of my favorite foods. Her cream scones are to die for, and her pecan sticky cake is unbeatable. The one that sticks out, though, is her chicken chili. Not only is it easy and really delicious, but I still make it from the printed copy of the email she sent me when I asked her for the recipe. This way, whenever I make it, I will be able to read her words at the bottom of the page: “Love You, Donna.”
3. Donna taught me how to really listen to people. When you spoke to her, she gave you her full attention. She made eye contact, and paid attention, and you knew that she was totally invested in you at that moment. As someone who sometimes tends to talk more than I listen, I hope to get better at this.
4. She taught me to entertain. When Donna had people over for a party or a holiday, everything was always beautiful. Even if it was simple–just some fruit and cookies–it was obvious that she had gone to some effort and that she wanted you to feel welcome and special. And if you were blessed enough to ever be invited to her home, you did feel welcome and special and comfortable and full of yummy food! Every time.
5. Donna taught me to take care of my body. I’m not there yet. I still have quite a few pounds to lose and lots of changes to make. But I’m making the effort. Donna took such good care of herself and of her family. They ate organic, they ate balanced meals, they watched the amount of artificial “stuff” that they put into their bodies. She studied and learned what was best for all of them. She did what she could to take care of her body. It still betrayed her. It still fought her until the bitter end. But she did her part. And here I am, blessed with a healthy body, and I haven’t done my best. I’m trying to change that, slowly but surely.
6. Perhaps more than anything else, Donna taught me how to keep going. Through the diagnoses and medications and surgeries and exhaustion, she always kept going. She was still kind. She was still generous. She was still fighting. She had faith and trust and joy. Up until the very last day, she was teaching her daughters. She was teaching me. She kept going.
I miss her so much. I mean, really….I miss her so, so much. But I will keep going. Because she did. And she wants us to. I can’t wait to see her again.