One night, just a day or so after September 20, 2010, I stopped by my sister's house to let her dog out. As the dog was outside taking care of business, I glanced at my sister's table. Her work bag was there. The bag she grabbed on the morning of September 20 before heading off to work, not having a single clue as to what the day was going to hold. I looked in her bag. Excedrin. Makes sense. She works with 13-14 year olds... I bet all the teachers had some Excedrin! An apple she never ate. There was also a spoon. She must have taken a yogurt. You could tell she had used the spoon and wiped it off. I started at it with intensity, reminding myself that "she was here, she was okay". After digging through her work bag some more, I found a notebook where she jotted down lesson plan ideas. Her writing. Always so pretty. I turned the page. She doodled in the margins my name and my kids names. At this point, I became frantic. The tears came hard and fast. I was crying with my whole body as I started rummaging through EVERYTHING on her table. EVERYTHING that meant she was once okay. Her receipt from the wedding we were in just the day before. I held it against me and just sobbed until I could no longer stand. My sister. I need my sister. PLEASE GOD DON'T TAKE HER FROM ME.
I know it has been a year and a half. I know her outcome was good. But it doesn't stop the memories that come out of nowhere. Those memories are forever ingrained in my mind.
Please remember. Remember every single day. Life is precious. There are no guarantees. Follow your heart and your mind...but mostly your heart. Smile a lot and love even more. You CANNOT face tragedy without the support of family and friends. Take my word on this. When things happen, and people step up to help, remember that. Thank God for them. And, heaven forbid, their world crumble like ours did, give back the favors they gave you, without thinking twice. Say "I love you." Turn "bad" into "good", because I promise, there is good in almost ANY situation. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Don't be scared to cry. Give hugs. Even if you don't feel comfortable hugging, the power of touch is greater than you will ever know. Take chances, even if you are scared. Everyone needs friends, but find that one special friend that will always be there for you, thick and thin. The one that sees you at your absolute worst and loves you all the same.
When Leslie was in the hospital, clinging to life, I remember I called her "my sister" more than I did "Leslie." There was more power in "my sister" for me at that time. It was like I was telling all the people who encountered her... "To you, she is Leslie Bishop. Your patient." But to me? She is my sister. My only sister. "She is more than a name. Please remember that with every decision you make with her care."