Seven Lonely Birthdays

Seven now. Seven of her birthdays without her present to celebrate. My oldest sister died in 2010, just about three months after her November 2, 2009 birthday. On the day she died—Friday, February 19, 2010—I wrote a tribute on the blog I then maintained. Every year on her birthday, I go back to that post and read it silently. Reading it makes the pain of that day fresh, but I read it anyway because I don’t want to forget what I said. I’ll share a snippet here:

She fed people she didn’t know, she gave up her bed for people who needed to sleep, she battled the IRS and Social Security Administration for people who couldn’t do on their own, but desperately needed an advocate…She was, in many ways, the Molly Ivins of our family; she gave people hell if they deserved it, especially when they had mistreated someone else…the underdog was her pet

A few days later, I continued my recollections of my sister. I said:

She lived on a tiny Social Security check in a tiny subsidized apartment in a building operated for people near the bottom of the economic scale. She was able to see past the “need” for material things. She didn’t need a big house, a nice car, or money in the bank. Sure, she would have been more comfortable with those things, but what she needed was to be able to help other people. She needed that as much as she needed air to breathe.

Those words are true. I may have learned much of whatever empathy and sympathy I have from her. Those are lessons to be forever cherished.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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