I recently described my relationship with my only sister to a friend as “perfect.” I recently turned 60, and for 60 years, that word has fit, well, perfectly.
There is a big gap, about 20 years, in our ages. So making that perfect was not easy. It’s not like we grew up as best friends or went to school together. The age difference could make her seem more like a parent. And I guess that could fit in the sense that my sister was my babysitter often when I was a kid as my parents were off working.
My sister, Rosalie, probably had a few cross words for the misbehaving me when I was a kid - and I’m sure I had it coming. I just don’t remember any of that. What I do remember is the full-time love and support. If I ever did something that was positive, she was there telling me I did great. Or that I deserved whatever good came my way.
She was wonderful to me in every possible way I can think of. So to lose someone like that is a devastating blow, of course.
Less than a few weeks away from her 80th birthday, Rosalie died Tuesday morning. She had some health issues later in life, and especially the last few months, since fall, some things really got tough. But this woman, who earlier beat cancer and endured chemotherapy, never uttered “Why me?” or complained about the lot she had been handed. She just carried on with amazing grace and class. And of course, she always had something nice to say to me. Always. Even near the end.
She was on home hospice in her final days and her family surrounded her with love. It was beautiful and an honor to be there to see it. They knew exactly what to do because they learned from the best - her.
I was about eight months old when she married Bob and this love affair was headed for its 60th anniversary in October. It’s a running joke in our family that I was mad I was not at the wedding. But she knew a fussy baby in a church was not a good idea. That day, she really looked out for not only me but everyone else there!
Rosalie was not a big sports fan, but she was a huge fan of her kids and grandkids. So you knew she would be there, even navigating the steep upper deck at Camden Yards, when her grandkids took part in Little League day a couple of years ago.
Whenever we talked on the phone - which was often - she would tell me with great enthusiasm about the accomplishments of her daughters, Vicki and Jen, and what they were up to. And especially about her grandkids, Beth, Luke and Reese. She adored them and they her. Whether it was a ballgame, a play or a music recital, she was there for all of it, always cheering them on.
For me, she was just a rock. There for anything and everything. We had no secrets and told each other just about everything. With our age difference, there were certainly times in my life I did something that let her down or she could have expressed disappointment about. She never did. Not once, ever. She let me live my own life and make my own decisions (and mistakes) and never tried to steer me in a certain direction. She just supported 100 percent whatever road I took and had my back completely.
We never argued about anything. Never. I’ll miss asking her advice on anything and everything. She always pointed me in the right direction when I asked. No issue was too small.
I am so glad she spent her final days at home surrounded by those she loved the most. I’ll never forget what she said to me on an otherwise terrible night when she was in a lot of pain but somehow summoned up all the energy she could to let me know how she felt one last time.
There is no handbook for how a family handles those final days. But most of it was a blessing. It was a beautiful goodbye. Perfect.