My sister, Cheryl, was the person I wanted to emulate. She was the middle child, and I the youngest of five. She was beautiful, intelligent, and kind. She taught me how to fix my hair, put on make-up and she had great sense of fashion, even if I was too big to wear her clothes I still took note of what was “in style”. I still want to be like her when I grow up.
In 1989, during her junior year of high school, Cheryl was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia. None of us siblings were bone marrow matches so for several years her doctors tried various treatments, none of which worked. Finally, it was decided Cheryl would undergo a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor.
It was Christmas 1991, and the transplant was scheduled to take place sometime in early 1992. That year Cheryl made angel ornaments for our entire Christmas tree and made us each a handmade gift also. I am sure she had the realization that it was possibly going to be her last Christmas, and sadly it was. Cheryl passed away in June 1992, just a couple months after her bone marrow transplant.
I wanted to write this blog entry because my sister influenced me in many ways beyond hair and make-up, I saw her fight for her life; she never let her disease keep her from living. She was still Captain of the Flag Corp her senior year, was in the school musical, and attended prom. She enrolled in college and majored in Elementary Education despite some people discouraging that career because she should not be around kids who often pass germs around to others. She balanced college with twice weekly trips to Cincinnati for blood transfusions. She stayed positive through years of treatment, despite the reality of her disease.
It may have been her last Christmas on earth, but I know Cheryl is an angel in heaven watching down on me every day. Through all my medical challenges, procedures and surgeries I knew she was there to protect me and give me the strength I needed.
Christmas is not about finding the perfect gift, having the perfect tree, or baking the perfect cookies, it’s about being with family and friends. I have to admit my fondest Christmas memories are of those times when something unexpected happened. Today our family looks back and jokes about “Mom’s mashed potato rant”, the “best sweet potatoes ever” and the “very silent dinner”.
This year find joy in whatever your situation, I realize for some it may be difficult, but it will be worth it. Reach out to someone who you have not spoken to, a phone call an e-mail, even a Facebook post.
We do not know what the next year has in store for us….live your life accordingly.