Tomorrow would have been my sister Maria’s 57th birthday. She was my big sister, the protector for me and for our younger sister. At first glance, you would see she was such a tiny person as the shortest of the three of us. It seems as my parents had the three of us girls that each subsequent daughter would be a bit taller in their adulthood than the next. Ria, as everyone called her, was just 5’2″ with eyes of such a brilliant blue. In retrospect she had my Daddy’s wonderful blue eyes. That old line of a song “Five foot two, eyes of blue…” would definitely describe her.
Maria had a laugh that could draw people to her. She never forgot a joke and was the life of any party or family get-together. Wherever the laughter and good times were occuring…she was in the middle of it all. She absolutely loved life and had fun living it. As she got older she loved to go on cruises, she visited Puerto Rico, and she loved to go to Orlando to play golf. She started her adult life at the early age of 17 when she married while still a high school senior…and spent the next twenty years of her life mostly raising her two kids. In fact, she went back to school, to college, to become a RN long after her high school years, when her children were older. She became a respected RN and her career spanned Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. She preferred nursing in Intensive Care and loved the night shifts. As a nurse, I often wonder if she knew or suspected the warning signs. Looking back, I can see one or two…but less than a year after the death of our mother, Maria was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005. Not only did she have lung cancer, but it had already gotten into her system and spread to the bones in her legs and tumors were wrapped around her heart and spine. The news was fast and devastating. We went from hearing she was going into the hospital to get checked out to learning phone call to phone call of each thing that was found. We were floored. Maria was the strong one, the big sister that was invincible and so successful and so wonderful. We needed her.
I could spend days writing her story…and some day I plan to write a memorial to her and to my mom (also a victim of cancer). But today I remember the fun times, the happy times, the times she spent here with all of us. She had a laugh that made you smile, she had a temper that could make a grown man cower, and she loved life with such spirit that we could not believe she’d be taken from us so young. But she was. She fought this foe with grace and with dignity…and for a while we were amazed at the way she still played golf as long as she could, she took care of her own needs at times for she lived away from our family and her husband was employed with an offshore drilling company, she loved her grandchildren and she never gave up the fight. She was incredibly close to my younger sister and I often admired the way they seemed so in tune to each other…and my little sister and I still miss our big sister….she was the embodiment of a person living life to its fullest.
She lived with that cancer almost a year, in October of 2006 she was taken from us….our angel on earth. She collected angels, and today I have a shelf in my den with some of her favorites…angels in snow globes, angels dressed in nursing outfits, angels looking over children…today she is an angel, with a laughing face and twinkling eyes and still (hopefully) watching over her family and her two little sisters.
We miss you and we love you Ria,