9/11 is a day our nation pauses and remembers the lives lost 9 years ago when we were attacked by terrorists. For my family, it is the day we remember when we lost my sister Deb 15 years ago.
Deb was only here with us for 37 years. She was a sweet and gentle person and the world is not kind to gentle people. It’s not kind to tough people either, but it’s easier to survive if you are tough. Not easier to handle, just easier to survive. We learn coping skills and hope that the coping skills will not kill us.
Life did not turn Deb hard and bitter, like it does so many of us. Whatever came her way, she remained faithful in her belief that people were good and kind. The fact that she was betrayed in this belief many times did not deter her from believing. When the father of her oldest daughter died, when her lover beat her, when her dependence on the alcohol that comforted her and the cigarettes she chain-smoked caused her health to deteriorate, she kept her gentle nature.
She developed this dependence in her early teens as my dad’s own alcohol dependence took our family through bad times of constant moving, verbal fighting between my parents, and money problems. It was easy for a quiet, loving child to slip between the cracks. We were all busy trying to save ourselves in whatever way we could. Deb turned to alcohol. It was an addiction she could never overcome. Her liver eventually gave out on her and her weakened body because victim to tuberculosis.
Deb loved her kids and she loved our kids. She went swimming with me and my boys and she tie-dyed shirts and mailed them to my daughter. When my life was falling apart, she was the first person to come to me, give me a hug, and say simply “I’m sorry.” I never walked into a room she was in that her face did not light up and a smile appear when she saw me.
At some point my dad won his fight against the dependence he struggled with and things settled down for my family. My mom and dad supported Deb and her daughters financially and any other way they could. The natural disposition of my dad that refused to judge others and accepted shortcomings in people was passed on to my sister. I never heard her blame any of her problems or failures on anyone else.
I have a couple of letters that my sister sent me when we lived in different states. In one she states very matter-of-factly in one sentence that she had been having a hard time since she got laid off at work. To anyone that did not know her, most of her life would have appeared as a “hard time”. To Deb, her life was a complete success because the result of it was her two beautiful daughters. She would never consider a life that included them hard.
She taught us to love, to forgive, and to be kind. She showed us that while we can’t always control what life dishes out to us, we can control what it makes of us. She taught us that we can keep a kind heart and to remember that others can’t always help that they are the way they are either.
I miss my sister Deb and the beauty of her soft nature. I remember her beautiful smile and I remember how even when she was going through pain most of us will never experience, she took the time to comfort me.
Peace and love, Deb