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With Love, Hope, and Perseverance

My Sisters on the Other Side

26 Comments

Yesterday was the birthday of my older sister, Linda. She’s been gone from this world now for almost ten years. Just a year less than Mom. I don’t remember her being in my life when I was very young, but there are pictures that tell a different story.

Infant joanne w Linda and mom

Linda is holding me as Mom plays with her hair.

Little JoAnne and Linda

I remember those wooden shoes hurt my feet. Maybe Linda is trying to comfort me with her hand on my knee.

She was ten years older than me, technically a step sister, but the father who adopted her when he married my mother was much more of a father than the first one.

Linda got married at 16. We saw her now and then, usually during a crisis, like when her son died, then the  few months we stayed with her and her husband and daughter when Dad was in Vietnam, and later when my younger sister died.

After my divorce, Linda and I talked on the phone more. Her love and acceptance reached all the way from California to the Atlantic coast. She was a welcome comfort during that dark time of my life. I kept saying my daughter and I were going to come visit her, but I didn’t realize how sick Linda was, and that sometimes we don’t have as much time as we think we have. Still, I’m grateful beyond words for her love and I know she is in a good place, probably singing hymns with Dad like they did when my parent’s visited her church.

A few days ago, I had all the loose the old family photos laid out on the table so I could add them to the family history album. That’s when I realized how much Linda cared for me when I was young.  I also studied the photos of my younger sister, Mary Kaye.  It’s one thing to die when you’re old – whatever old is… I’m not so sure anymore – But Mary Kaye was young. It was on her 16th birthday, in March of 1975, that Mary Kaye was killed by a drunk driver.

Mary Kaye was not interested in school. She smoked cigarettes and ran away from home once. But she also volunteered with handicapped children and helped with fundraisers for their group home.

Mary Kaye in candy spiper uniform with Lobo

Mary Kaye in her candy striper (volunteer) uniform with Lobo

Mary Kaye at bake sale and with Lobo

Left: MK is putting the hamster on Lobo’s head. Right: she’s wearing the smiley face T shirt and volunteering at the bake sale for the  Carobell children’s home.

We were very different in many ways. She was more of a free spirit. I was more serious about school and had bigger plans for saving the world.  We were just starting to get beyond our sibling rivalry when she died. I often wonder what she would be like today. I wish my kids had been able to know her. These were my thoughts when I started sobbing at the table full of old photos. My husband was there to comfort me and suggested I take a break from the photos since I’d been at it for a while. I picked up my journal and went to the couch to write my feelings. A few minutes later, I felt Mary Kaye’s presence. I have not felt her presence much like I have my parents who died more recently, but it was very much the same feeling of intense JOY. No clear words, like my father gives me, but clear and unmistakable JOY.

dandelion sun through trees (3)

This evening, I stopped writing this to go for a walk with David and Doodle. Breathing in the cool air, I reached out to Linda and felt the gentle joy of her spirit. Then lightening flashed in the distant clouds. Maybe that was Mary Kaye.

If you have sisters or brothers, parents or children, beloved family by blood or by choice, still living in this world, treasure the moments you have with them. And also know this, our loved ones who have passed on are alive in spirit and in love on the other side.

Author: JoAnna

An open minded, tree-hugging Christian, former counselor, and life-long lover of animals, I'm returning to my creative roots and have published my first book: Trust the Timing, A Memoir of Finding Love Again. I also paint angels.

26 thoughts on “My Sisters on the Other Side

  1. Thanks for sharing these lovely memories, it takes bravery to write about somthing so painful. And you have reminded me I need to email my brother xx

    • You’re welcome. It took me a few days to come back around to write about it, but I wanted to honor their memory. And I need to call my Aunt Ruth, too.

  2. JoAnna, your post showing you ur strong love for your sisters and family made my heart all soft
    and warm this morning. Thanks for this beautiful gift.
    You have also given us all a strong reminder of cherishing each other whilst we can. Nobody comes with
    warranties of length of life.
    The love from your photos make your sorrow lined with shimmer too, I think.

    Hug
    Miriam

  3. I enjoyed looking at your photos so much! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your life, it is amazing how much we miss when we are younger ; it seems just looking back at a photo can give us new insight and appreciation for one another–both for the ways we are different and for the Common Ground we share!

  4. I remember when I sold my house to move to FL, and had many things to go through, of course many photos from a lifetime. I realized I couldn’t do more than a couple hours at a time of sorting through them because they took a real emotional toll.

    Glad that you felt your sisters presence, that’s always so reassuring. Big hugs to you. 🤗🤗

    • Thanks for sharing that, Deborah. I’ve discovered this time limit, too. There’s the emotional part plus the mental organizing part. I keep thinking I’m almost done. My parents took a LOT of photos. Maybe tonight. I appreciate the understanding.

  5. I wept with you, JoAnna. Old photos can do that to us: exposing memories of those caring and troubling times of our childhood and youth.

  6. Dear JoAnna.. what a heartfelt post this was.. I am sure your elder sister loved you very much as she took care of you.. I loved you sharing your family photo’s and was so saddened to hear your younger sister passed at such a young age of just sixteen.. I know I think you have mentioned her passing before but I had not realised how young..

    And yes you are right we should treasure each and every moment with loved ones.. For in a blink of an eye all can change..
    Sending warm hugs your way and I am sure you were given a Sign from on high that both are well and united again..

    LOVE and Blessings to you ❤

  7. I just read this again and am finally able to take the time to respond. I was moved to tears at how tender and loving your older sister was with you . I love visuals . The pictures you included are so profound in that I can see your sisters loving ways. I’m soda about the death of your 16 year old sibling.
    This piece you wrote about them and your relationships with both is honoring them, and I’m sure they see it. They are with you because you carry them in your heart.

    • Thank you, S. I’ve been living with my younger sister’s death for many years, and now processing it all more deeply than I ever imagined I would. Before I posted this, I wondered if I’m becoming obsessed or if people are going to get tired of reading about my deceased family members. But I decided it’s therapeutic enough to keep going. It’s like I’m getting closer to and learning more about my sisters even though they are not here in body. I appreciate your affirmation that my writing is honoring them. That’s my hope.

  8. I am so sorry you lost your sister so young. It’s heartbreaking and, frankly, unimaginable. Since I lost my mom I’ve been thinking about how much I lean on my siblings. I find it hard to move through the thought of them not being here.
    Sending love and prayers your way.

    • Thank you very much for your support. I am grateful for friends here and there as well as the memories and occasional awareness of my sisters and parents presence. And of course my husband. And the dogs. 🙂

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