Losing a sibling is a unique personal tragedy. My original sib club consisted of five, one boy, four girls. Now we are three sisters. We lost our brother a number of years ago when he was only 61 years old.
Last night, my oldest sister Shirley died. Over her lifetime she suffered from numerous serious illnesses, any one of which could have ended her life, but didn’t. I can’t recall how many times we thought she was slipping away from us. Somehow she always pulled through for another stab at this thing we call life. We sometimes joked that she had nine lives. If we took the time to count, I think it may have been more than nine.
Shirley had been on kidney dialysis for the past three years. We, her family, watched as she appeared to get weaker and more tired by the day. I wasn’t terribly surprised when her oldest daughter called me a few days ago to tell me that my sweet sister, after discussing her condition with her three daughters and her doctors, had made the decision to forego any further treatments. She was exhausted. She simply couldn’t take it any longer.
I’m exceedingly proud of my sis for making a courageous decision but I have a huge hole in my heart, as do we all.
When I saw her at the hospital on Friday (the last time she was able to talk with me) she had a peacefulness about her that let me know she was at ease with herself. And she still had her sense of humor. The nurse pointed to me and said, “Shirley, who is this?” She smiled and replied, “That’s my sister and she’s the oldest.” That was the last giggle I had with her. I was hoping for a few more days.
Shirley leaves behind three beautiful daughters: Sandy, Toni, and Sonya. She was also the grandmother and great-grandmother of a whole bunch of wonderful children and young people. We miss her.
Shirley Winkler Earp (02/22/1939 – 10/16/2016)