When I was five my sister Donna left for college. She was on an adventure. I was devastated.
Donna was a mother to her younger brothers and sisters. Things like partly burnt-partly frozen ring bologna were the mark of her culinary skills. She was a terrible chef and prepared food that made you laugh and feel loved.
Her gift of being fully present to me has shaped my life. I didn’t know that she was teaching me to see people, really see people. She would gaze into my eyes, see her own reflection and say “I see Donna in your eyes” to which I would reply, “I see Clare in your eyes.”
When Donna was a young mom, she would come home on the weekends with her family. We would eat, laugh, sing and play in the front yard. Donna was a person of ease, a member of slow-time, a lovely non-anxious presence.
When I was a young mom, Donna called me every Saturday. She had to know all the details of how I was hanging in there. She was never in a rush, even when I was, which was most of the time.
Donna made art for all of us. Sadly, gone are the t-shirts she made for me entitled “Sara’s Mom and Sara’s Dad.” She drew us holding our baby girl at 3 am in that “young parent trance” with big black circles under our eyes. She had a way of saying, “I’m paying attention to this crazy moment in your life.”
A few years ago my dad gave me the sweatshirt she made for him. Dad served as Chairman of the Board for many NPO’s during his generative years. Donna loved to create art that said, “I see you, I get you.”
The last gift Donna gave me was a few months before she died. A Boyd’s Bear. She made sure all the people she loved had bears that told the story of a moment they shared. Mine was a symbol of the day she left me when I was 5. All these years she carried that excruciating good-bye in her heart just like me.
During Donna’s final five months our conversations were about God, God’s forgiveness and Heaven. I told her “in God’s house there are many rooms.” She wondered if God would give her a purple room. That seemed like something God would love to create for my sister, God’s own child. She never asked for anything…she only gave. Pretty sure she got the purple room.
Today marks 15 years since she left for heaven. I am spending the morning writing about my beautiful sister with tears and smiles. Holding and cherishing her gifts and imagining her in her purple room saying, “I see you, I’m with you.”
You can still see Donna in my eyes. Her presence is still shaping my life. I love you, Donna <3
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.