July 7, 2021

She is Slipping Away—& I am not There.

 

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As I slump into my chair, engulfing myself within a blanket, she is slipping away.

I hear she is hooked up to every imaginable machine—pale white and unresponsive.

No hand squeeze.

No eye flutter.

Nothing.

I am told her three children are singing songs in her ear, and I close my eyes so I can feel their music. I text my niece, Molly, “Please whisper in mom’s ear that I love her.” She writes me back—”She loves you too.”

I know Stefanie did not hear the whisper, let alone respond, but I do hope she felt my words in some way…any way. I am not with them, but my soul is as I channel every bit of healing and positive energy I have in my being to make its way to her.

Stefanie was my sister-in-law for 14 years. Is she still my sister-in-law if I am no longer married to her husband’s brother, Marc? She is still my children’s aunt—actually she is their second mother, and describing her as anything less is just not correct.

Yesterday, I spent an hour on FaceTime with her and her youngest daughter Carly, helping them prepare for the college application process and brainstorming college essay topics because that is the work I do in real, non-family life. Also because, even after being divorced from Marc more than 14 years ago, I am still incredibly close to his brother Gregg’s family—Aunt Stef included. We always had each other’s backs…and hearts—so yes, she is still my sister-in-law. No, she is my sister.

They had just arrived in Maine the day before for their annual pure and nature-loving summer getaway.

I spent 14 summers with their family in Maine, and Aunt Stef and I raised our children together on a sparkling diamond-like lake that filled our beings with such joy. We swam to “the rock” and fished for bass. We climbed the ridge and hiked in search of blueberries. We learned how to drop a ski, wakeboard, and surf. We walked to the country store every day for Gifford’s Moose Tracks ice cream and we watched our children learn to jump off the dock and splash wildly. We celebrated birthdays, half-birthdays, new jobs, promotions, and so many milestones. Most special, we carried out the legacy of my ex-husband’s grandparents, Marty and Ethel, who raised them in the very same spot, a group of five cabins called Pinehurst, starting over 50 years ago.

After our divorce, my children continued their quests to Maine every summer with their father. Aunt Stef “adopted” my children as her own and became their “Maine Mama.” Cooking with them and for them, hugging them all day, holding their hands in the water, and doling out the mother’s love were gifts she gave without a second thought.

Aunt Stef always updated me and filled me in on their antics and laughter, making me feel as if I was truly there even when I wasn’t. Even when I was on the outside of this family, I always felt on the inside.

And now, I feel that way again. I am in the hospital with Aunt Stef in my heart and soul, but not there in person. Tragedy has struck.

Yesterday, a freak-of-nature storm ferociously plowed through Pinehurst, and Aunt Stef had just returned from her epic food shop. Her daughter Carly bopped out of the car and Stef remained in her driver’s seat on her phone. At that exact moment, a monstrous tree uprooted and landed on her while in the driver’s seat before the ignition was even turned off—three hours after we’d said goodbye on FaceTime.

I am not there to feel her, touch her, or sing to her. I am comforting my children. Her husband, children, and her parents surround her and all I can do is send a whisper, envision my vibes traveling to her, and pray.

Massive head trauma. Breathing tube. Machines keeping her alive. My sister is slipping away. Just like the diamonds on our lake.

Now it is my turn to take her children under my wings, hold their hands, and dole out a mother’s love. That is what soul sisters do.

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