Some of my earliest memories are of Christmas with you there. You were always smiling, always handing out gifts, always laughing and joking with us all. You’re strength and bright spirit encouraged and warmed me, even as a child. Holidays, Birthday parties, family gatherings – there wasn’t anything that you missed if you could help it and we wouldn’t have been complete without you.
I never knew that you weren’t actually a blood relative until I was old enough to never care. Family that is chosen is the best and strongest kind. I’ve folded that lesson into my life so tightly, that I surround myself with sister-friends and other family by choice. You taught me that being true to yourself is so important that you have to do it – even if you have to find a new family to do it around.
I wouldn’t be the voracious reader that I am today without you. All of the books – every event was celebrated with new books – that you gave me, that I still have, that I still read. I don’t believe in growing too old for books and of course, that’s because you would borrow any of my books to read whether they were adult or ya fiction.
Seven and a half years since that fateful diagnosis. The summer I graduated highschool was rife with turmoil. Losing my Big Mama suddenly was hard, losing you slowly was harder. You always fought it bravely – and in that you taught me more about true living than anyone else ever can – you would make light of it, you would let it be the dark, heavy, and scary reality that it was. You never tried to minimize what was happening to you. You never hid that you wished you could end it all, but still you fought on.
This last year has been one of the hardest as you moved from home to assisted living to a nursing home. We watched your condition worsen – drastically – all throughout the year. Yet you were always you. You never got separated from yourself like so many dementia patients – that’s the cruelty of your diagnosis – full awareness of what was happening to you and nothing to do about it.
You slowly couldn’t drive, couldn’t tie your shoes, couldn’t get dressed by yourself, couldn’t open doors, couldn’t feed yourself. Yet you were not your limitations. Inside of all of that, I always knew that I could sing an old hymn and you’d start humming along; I could play some music and you’d settle into the sounds.
You fought so bravely for the last several years. You were brave enough to let us see you struggle and brave enough to let us know that you didn’t want to fight anymore. Your best friend’s last plea came at Thanksgiving and she asked you to make it through the Holidays – she didn’t want to face a Christmas without you. And you didn’t let her down. My last plea was to be able to come home and see you, and you didn’t let me down. And finally, our last wish was for you to go home and find release. You didn’t let us down.
We love you, we miss you, we’re so proud to have been your family.