Today’s post is one that is truly difficult to put out there in words…in black and white…which will suddenly make it all real. My oldest sister, Patti, of whom I have written about on a few occasions, passed away on December 6, 2021, at the age of 79.
For those of you who do not know her story, Patti was stricken with polio when she was 12. She experienced a severe case, and almost died. Her prognosis was not good at that time, and she was given only about 10 years to live in her condition, even after treatment in an iron lung and then physical therapy. God had another plan in mind…she lived a full life, touching countless hearts of all that came into her life. Patti lived the remainder of her life as a quadriplegic, with only the use of her left hand and neck…and a brain filled with intelligence, love, trust in God, and an incredibly feisty and grateful spirit.
It’s hard to describe what Patti meant to me, and to my family. “Back in the day,” there were no government programs in place for her or for any families that were caregivers for their loved ones. There was no financial help, and no respite help. Come to think of it, as far as I know, there were never any offers to help our family back then. I am sure that most friends and family members were intimidated by the scope of what was needed for her care.
With that said, from a very young age, my other two sisters and I learned how to help care for all of Patti’s needs. Bathing, hair washing, skin care, bedpans, turning her and changing her position so she would not get bedsores. We also were “on call” for anything that she needed or help with the things she desired to do. We assisted her, and made sure that she had her writing tools and papers, books to read, the telephone to visit with friends and family, cups of cozy coffee, among many other things.
Patti was the center of our existence, and her role in our lives is so intricate that it is impossible to explain to others, even to other family members and friends. We grew up in a volatile, abusive, confusing and uncertain home. The kind of home where you never knew what was going to happen hour to hour, or even minute to minute. There were wonderful times, that felt loving, lighthearted and fun. However, those comforting times could change in a fleeting instant…and we lived in a home that the “spirit” of the day ahead of us could be felt in a palpable way. Our life was confusing, filled with the stark contrast of darkness and light.
That is one of the ways that Patti was a grounding for us. She was a constant source of light, love, nurturing, connection, and positivity. We spent a lot of our time as babies, toddlers, and teenagers, in her room. She was there for us when we came home from school, to listen to whatever needed to be shared or discussed. We watched special movies together, in her room. (remember…there were no dvds or streaming back then so it was “a big deal”) We listened to record albums in her room, as a family. This would include Shakespeare plays and most of the musicals. I especially remember listening to Macbeth, all together in the dark. Very memorable and scary!
My most precious memories spent with Patti, when I was a child, was laying next to her, listening to my favorite stories and poems that she would read to me for hours. She most probably is the reason for my love of reading and writing. As a little one, I experienced the stories of Poppy, Heidi, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Happy Prince, and The Selfish Giant. I also learned about the love of Jesus and His Precious Mother…and countless stories of the lives of the saints. She read me beautiful story poems and also whimsical, silly ones. She was the one who helped me with homework, and also helped with special projects for school. She offered much encouragement when I practiced for a speech or presentation…which absolutely terrified me.
Somehow, Patti knew how to touch my soul. Or shall I say that she was an open vessel for The Holy Spirit to work through. This was evident in our family, and each person that she came in contact with.
Although she lived her life with a disability most of us can’t even fathom, she never complained or cried about her condition. She chose a different way…the way of gratitude, love, and trust in God. As I have said before, she was the least handicapped person I have ever known. She forged through life, and viewed it as an adventure. There was not much that she wouldn’t be open to, if there was a way for her to do it. I remember the time in her life when she painted miniatures using a mouth stick. That amazed me! I also remember when she was strapped to the back of a motorcycle for an exhilarating ride. Yikes! (remember…she could not hold on or sit up on her own)
Actually, everything about Patti will always amaze me.
Patti, I know that you are in heaven, and are part of a world that I can not see. But I know you are here.
You are here in my heart. You are here when I enjoy the newness of each day and what it will bring. You are here when my heart explodes with love for those that God has blessed me with…for your heart exploded with love into me when I was a confused little girl. My fears and anxieties have kept me from many experiences throughout my life…everytime I am able to break through those fears and try something new or creative, you are right here with me. You always encouraged me and loved me where I was at. I am learning to do the same with myself and others.
Thank you for all that you have given to me and to the world. Thank you for showing me what a blessing it is to open myself to the love, forgiveness, peace and mercy, that only God can give.
Thank you for teaching me what it means to be truly grateful for all that God has blessed me with in this life. You always focused on the beauty around you and that meant that your focus was always outside of yourself. That is where your secret of happiness resided...it lived in the beauty of God’s creations and blessings, and especially in the hearts of those that He placed in your life.
Thank you for the love that you share(d) with me…I feel you so strong right now, that my heart is overflowing. Thank you for being there for me throughout my life. Your love and spirit will be carried in my heart until my life has ended…and hopefully, will then be passed on to my loved ones and those souls that God places in my life.
God is love, and we will be connected in His love forever. Thank you for teaching me that.
Your physical presence here on Earth is missed in so many ways. It is not the same place without you. However, the light that you shared will always be here to comfort us. Love always remains. I love you.
Patti’s Obit https://www.dispatch.com/obituaries/b0057891
Past Post about Patti https://somebodylovesmeblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/patti-your-life-is-a-prayer/