Remembering Sissy’s last wish

It was five years ago that Sissy had her “talk” with me that completely changed my world. Her passing two weeks after that talk fueled my desire to make her last wish come true. But her wish was not for herself. Her wish was for me. It was selfless deeds like that which made her all the more special to me and all who knew her.
Sissy never married. She never had children. She was adopted into our family when she was in her early teens. She hardly spoke of her life when she was a child hinting only of economic hardships, being passed from family to family and being teased in school for being older than all the other children with only the educational level of a 2nd grader. The neglect and bullying took it’s toll on her throughout her life. I think I recognized that early in my life and was the reason why I looked out for her so much. And she did the same for me. It was almost as if I was her child and not just her niece.
Sissy trusted me with her final wishes. While it was very difficult for me to listen to them, I paid attention to every detail and obeyed each one. She did not want me to have her name and details in the Monitor. Her funeral was to be by invitation only, not a public event for just anyone to show up. Her belongings had already been sorted and labeled for those who she wanted to give to. She told me that the rest should be given to people who NEED it. “Don’t give it to (xxx) charity or (xxx) charity because I’ve seen their staff steal the good stuff and garage sale it for their own profit,” she said. I got the biggest kick out of that statement and seeing her get all fired up over it – and yes, I removed the names so that they wouldn’t be offended – because she had previously pledged so much to them in years prior. Coincidentally, the State of Texas had two devastating fires, one in the hill country and one here in McAllen, TX. Both areas had families in need of furnishings, towels, beds, etc. I also identified some local friends and families that needed some help. I told them her wishes and made sure they wouldn’t garage sale the items.
I feel confident that they didn’t and they won’t.
She also told me to not make a “big deal” about her death. She looked at me straight in the eye and shook her finger at me and said sternly, “Everything you do ends up being a grand orchestrated event. I don’t want anyone’s pity.” So for a year, and even now, I have not made a “big deal” about her death. I never posted her name in the Monitor nor details of her funeral. However, I did pledge a race to be run for her. That race was originally the Austin 10/20 race in April. However, my mother passed away the week before that race and I wasn’t able to attend. So, in it’s place, I dedicated the Nike Women’s Marathon in her memory. I have stuck to my promise and posted only “My Sissy” as any reference to her. I’ve never talked in detail about her death but only beamed with pride about her life and what she did for me, what she meant to me and how she made me the runner that I am today.
When I was a young girl, my mother would tightly pull back my hair into pig tails or braids so much that I felt my rubber band crease into my head with a bruise the next morning! I would run across the street to my grandma’s house (where Sissy lived) and she would promptly remove the braids and all the rest of the ruffly pink dressy girly girl stuff I was wearing. Sissy was a very petite woman so she always had a change of clothes that I could easily slip into and go off into an adventure in the back yard with her. We’d climb trees or dig up plants in the alley, When I had my boys, you would think that those shenanigans would come to a stop. Nope! There were several times where I had to yell up into the play gym at McDonald’s for Michael AND Sissy to come down now “or else”! She was a kid at heart who at the drop of a dime on a clear day would take off to the beach and go fishing. She’d return with enough flounder for the entire neighborhood!
Sissy was simply awesome.
These are the memories that I had tucked away these last few months that probably allowed me to lose myself in her last wish for me. She wanted me to run so that I could do something healthy for my life and to manage the stress that she knew was coming into my life. She knew I was naturally competitive and wanted ot make sure that this wasn’t about zooming through to a finish line. This was about enjoying the journey.
I messed up. I forgot about all that.
Over the last few months, I worked very hard on decreasing my time per mile. I worked out a lot and ran every chance I could fit in a few miles in my busy schedule. And one week before her dedicated marathon, I developed an extremely painful kidney infection. It knocked me down flat. One whole week without any exercise. I hardly ate and ran 103 degree fever. I had no business running a marathon much less thinking I could hit my goal I had been training so hard for!
With nothing short of a miracle, medicine made me healthy enough to run the Nike Women’s Marathon. The course was a perfect reflection of my life the previous two years. So many ups and downs, support along the way, seeing things I had never seen before, cold and drizzly yet comforting, refreshing and full of joy throughout the entire way. Certain messages stood out more than the rest. As a big believer in “signs”, I felt like they – Sissy, Momma, Rodney and Donny were all there running right along with me. I knew deep down inside I wasn’t healthy enough to run what I had trained to do so I took advantage of the situation and suddenly remembered that first line on the tree picture Sissy gave me. “Life is not a race – but indeed a journey”
I took a deep breath in and savored it all. I think I officially became a Winter Texan at that point. I took out my camera and snapped pics of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, towering redwood trees, hills, signs, everything that caught my eye. This is my journey.

Thank you all for being a part of it with me. Thank you all for helping me keep my pledge of helping to find a cure, to fund a cure… not just for my family – but for our world.

The lessons I learned while trying to fulfill Sissy’s wish are lessons that have opened my heart and my eyes forever and are not only designed to help in running or triathlon or cycling. These lessons have helped me in diet, nutrition, friendship, love, marriage, family, self worth, confidence, faith, workplace, goal setting and ultimately, success.

All her life she listened intently to all that I said and all that I didn’t say. It was through her skill of listening that allowed her to truly KNOW the inner me and what I needed to understand for the rest of my life to be as fulfilling as she had hoped it would be. 

Sissy was not a woman of great words. Sissy was a woman of great understanding and it was through listening to those around her, those whom she cared about, that benefitted the most. Thank you my Sissy. I have made it purposeful in my life to listen more and speak less so that I may be more like you and help others in the ways you have blessed me.  


One Response to “Remembering Sissy’s last wish”

  1. Very moving. Thank you.


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