Just yesterday I saw the first palm trees as we got near Harlingen and thought, “I get to see Karen soon!” It was the same every Thanksgiving during my childhood.
Just yesterday you put me on a see-saw for the first time in my life. I was scared, but you assured me you would not let me fall. I didn’t fall. I soared.
Just yesterday, I got to go barefoot for the first time because you were.
Just yesterday at one of those Thanksgiving family gatherings we hid around the corner from the living room where the grown-ups were having coffee . . . and you tossed that little rubber frog into the room . . . it missed by this much landing in someone’s coffee cup!
Just yesterday I saw static electricity sparks for the first time when you showed me how that happens with a blanket.
Just yesterday you took me to a skating rink with your boyfriend at the time, Ken. You were such a talented skater, fearless and graceful. Patient and reassuring, you stayed right with me, making sure I didn’t fall and that I had fun.
Skating in Corpus Christi, 1967
Just yesterday I was flower girl in your wedding.
Just yesterday you and I met where our parents were camping in Texas. I was a freshman in college. Your marriage was rocky. It was the first time we spent together as adults. We snuck off into the woods and got silly. We sat with our parents by the campfire, still silly. Hey, it was the late 70s, and lots of people were “silly.” My Mom suddenly declared she had “the munchies.” You and I snuck a glance at each other and stifled our laughter. Mom. She had no idea . . . We talked, heart-to-heart, about our lives. We laughed. We hugged. We loved.
Martin B. Dies State Park, Texas, 1977/1978
Just yesterday your beloved Dee passed away. It was 2001. I was still not 100% recovered from my breast cancer surgery, but I came to Nacogdoches to be with you until your parents could travel down from Minnesota. I had told you, “When it’s time, call me and I’ll come.” You called and I came.
My fave photo of Karen and Dee
Just yesterday you and our mutual cousin Kenny came to my Brenham home one of the first weekends after my marriage dissolved in 2002. You and he helped me with some home projects. We were silly. We worked a jigsaw puzzle. We sat up until almost dawn in my living room talking, a slumber party of cousins. It was the first time the three of us were together as adults. You and Kenny offered the support only family can give. We laughed, oh man, did we laugh. Yep, we were silly. We hugged. We loved.
Just yesterday you fulfilled a dream and became an accomplished motorcyclist, owning not just one but two motorcycles. You rocked, “Tree Frog”! You made so many new friends and did an amazing amount of charity work.
Karen and “Mystic”
Just yesterday it was Christmas 2004, and you were spending it with me in Brenham. It was the only Christmas we shared. We found kazoos in an old-time toy store and played Christmas carols. We drooled over Sean Connery in a James Bond movie marathon. You were there Christmas Eve when my beloved Scotsman, Dave, called me for the first time.
Just yesterday it was 2007, and you came to Mom’s life celebration in Brenham. Your presence helped me keep it together and make it through the day.
Together in Lufkin, TX – October 2008
Just yesterday it was February 2009. I pulled our travel trailer solo to Waco, where you were undergoing chemotherapy. You and I had one entire day together, just the two of us. I drove you around to run a few errands. You introduced me to people as your “baby sister,” and then explained we were cousins but you considered me your younger sister. I was so honored. We laughed until we cried and cried until there was nothing left to do but laugh. We talked. You talked and I listened. You told me about the first time you saw me when I was a baby in a crib, how from that moment you loved me and wanted to protect me. We left nothing unsaid, nothing not shared. We held each other. We loved.
At the campground in Waco, the last time Karen and I spent time alone together, just to “be,” as we called our times together.
Just yesterday the three cousins, along with Dave, Janna and Terry, were reunited at a campground near your Texas home. It was the second and final time the three of us would be together. The chemotherapy had failed and your doctors had recommended hospice. An independent and strong Spirit as always, you drove yourself to the campground and stayed several hours. As night fell, we wrapped you in a blanket by the campfire. I remember you became quiet, just gazing at each of us, smiling. We basked in your loving presence.
Me, Karen and Kenny
Just yesterday I told you that if you needed to go before Dave and I returned from our holiday to Scotland, it was okay. It was May 2009. You said, no, you would wait. I said I would call you every day from Scotland.
I called you every day.
Just yesterday Janna told me it was time for me to come. “Tell Karen I’m on my way.” I would be pulling our travel trailer solo back to the campground, and told Janna not to call me during those three hours while I was on the road if you should go. I arrived at the campground and called Janna.
“Our baby’s gone.”
Just yesterday it was time for your service. You had asked Dave to wear his kilt, and he did. You had requested your biker friends to wear their colors, and they did. One of your friends dyed his beard green, the color of frogs, your favorite color. You knew how I felt about funerals and had told me it would be okay if I did not attend. Before we left for Scotland, I had written you a letter; you wanted it read at your service. They were my words to you; I needed to be the one to speak them. I held it together during the service, but was the first person out to the parking lot afterwards. I stood out of sight beside our Tahoe and . . . lost it. I could not let your elderly parents – so shattered and frail-appearing - who were also like parents to me, see me give in to the depths of my grief. I needed to be alone those few minutes.
Just a few of the bikes at the funeral. There were many more. I know Karen heard the roar of all those engines as the bikers left en masse.
Just yesterday I heard a tree frog and felt your presence, knowing you were watching over me even now. “Hi cuz! Thanks for stopping by! I’m doing okay! Love you!”
“Karen’s Bench” on the camping property of her motorcycle club. Her biker name was “Tree Frog.”
Just yesterday awaiting the biopsy results during my cancer experience in 2012, I realized I did not fear Death. I know you have again blazed the trail ahead for me and that, when my time comes, you will be waiting and I’ll hear you say, “Hey kiddo! Let’s go!”
Just yesterday I played the word “lei” in Words with Friends against Dave. That word reminded me of the time you came to Brenham to share the Relay for Life weekend. I walked the survivor lap. We prowled the team booths, one of which was a Hawaiian theme. We each bought a lei for a buck and then proclaimed we got “lei’d” at the Relay for Life. Silly girls. We lit a luminaire for Dee and sat quietly on the ground next to it during the memorial service, hand in hand.
Just yesterday I realized May 26 this year will mark five years since you left this Earth. I wondered why that memory last night was so vivid and so strong.
I still feel the love – unconditional, never judgmental, always straight-on and uplifting – you gave me . . . you give me still.
Every moment together, every memory shared - it all feels like it was . . .
Thanks for stopping by!
Addendum: After publishing this entry, I stepped outside. The rain had just ended and I saw this . . .
See that black speck to the left of the stack above the rainbow? That’s a bald eagle. Love is a powerful thing, yes?