Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sister of Mine

Four years ago today, in the early afternoon, I got a tearful phone call from my mom.  She was choked up and could barely speak and since my dad had been ill for so long, I thought maybe we'd lost him.  When she finally was able to get out who had died, I sat in shock for a minute or two.  My sister, Teri, had passed away - ultimately from complications from the surgery she'd had over a year earlier.

Teri, my brother John and me - big head and all!

I cried with my parents for a few minutes then let them go so they could alert the rest of the family.  Then I .. well, the rest of that afternoon was a bit of a blur.  I know I talked to my friend Cinda, who got me on a three way conversation with an airline to try to find a ticket I could afford.  I had just started a new job a few months earlier, but I do remember calling my boss and letting him know I was on my way to Texas and I would sort everything out later.  I remember very clearly wanting to be at the airport before my parents arrived the following morning in Dallas, which meant getting on a red eye that night.  And I remember The Hubs driving me to the airport with a small backpack of clothes and my laptop and saying a very tearful and stressed out goodbye to him and the Tweedles before hopping my flight.

One of my favorite Teri shots in our Dad's military gear.

I don't remember what airport I had a lay over in, but I remember having a hell of a time finding the right terminal in the middle of the night on no sleep to make my connecting flight to Dallas.  I remember I got there about an hour before my parents flight landed and being grateful that our terminals were connected so I could be there when they got off the plane.  And when their plane came in, I remember calling "Mom" out a few times before using her proper name and finally getting her attention even though I was only a few feet away from her. Then it was tears and hugs all around before the long drive to the farm, and everything that waited there for us.

Our dad and Teri at the farm

Teri was 10 years older than me.  Which was a huge gap between us for a long time.  She had her own life long before I even stopped watching cartoons.  She was married twice before I made it to my 20s.  She lived away from us from the time I was in second grade.  We didn't get along, not really.  I think the age difference was too much most of the time, and we were just, well, very different people.  She'd also sustained an injury years and years ago that had her perpetually on pain killers and she had a lot of other medical issues.  The pain killers made it hard to talk with her.  I can remember her calling to tell me things, then calling a few hours later to tell me the same thing, not realizing we'd already talked.  But after her surgery, after the doctors were finally on the right track to sorting all of her medical issues out, it was like she was suddenly more alive than ever before.  We were talking almost weekly.. and even conspiring surprises for my folks for Christmas.  We were finally getting to know each other as people.  Finally becoming friends.  And then she was just.. gone.  And the craziest part about it is the surgery that took her life, also made all of that possible in the months before her death.  Without it, I never would have gotten the chance to know her, but without it, she might still be here.  That tears me up inside.  I'm grateful for the time, but 
devastated still, four years later by the loss.

My grandmother, mother, sister and me.

I'm grateful now that she got to meet Bunny when she was only a few months old.  At the time we were still at odds - not fighting exactly, but still there was tension and unfamiliarity between us.  I won't bother with wondering how I could have done things differently then.  But she never did get to meet Bug.  That bothers me more than most things, because I think she would have loved my little man.  She did get to meet Lone Wolf and Glamour Girl.  I know they made an impression on her which always makes me smile.  She told me once how lucky I was to have them in my life.  At her core, Teri was all heart.  She took in all strays animal and people.  She wanted only to love the world, and have the world love her back.  

Teri with Keira at age 3 months

When the funeral was over, and we were all ready to go home, I asked her husband if I could have an old leather and stud bracelet I always remember her wearing.  He was very generous and let me have it.  

Teri and her husband Stan

I have worn that bracelet every day since she passed away.  Every day for four years.  When I first put it on, I told myself I would take it off when I was ready to let her go.  Now I don't think I ever will.  I know it sounds silly, but wearing her bracelet makes me feel like she's with me.  She goes on all of our family adventures with us.  She watches over my Tweedles and me.  She's with me for every high and every low and as long as I wear it, she gets to live on experiencing my life with me.  It makes me feel better.

That's the bracelet on my arm.  She would have loved the Sequoias.

Once when I was 7 (which would have made her 17 and a Senior in High School), I remember Teri waking me up in the middle of the night.  We slipped out of her ground floor bedroom window and she took me out into the first snow of the year.  The streets were understandably deserted and it was just the two of us.  Laughing and throwing snow at each other, sliding on the newly formed ice and making snow angels.  And when we had tired each other out, she snuck me back through her window and tucked me back in bed and made me promise not to tell; that it was our secret.  That is the sister I remember best, through the hero-
worshiping eyes of a 7 year old.  That's the sister I hold in my heart and that's the sister that I take with me everywhere I go.  She was my sister, even if we didn't always get along.  And despite of our differences, or maybe because of them, I still love and miss her.

This is how I remember her best.
Teri Dee Gray Brown
August 6, 1965 - July 11, 2008
Seriously.. Thoughts?


  1. YOU, my friend write very, very well. Great photos. Thank you for letting us learn from your experiences.

  2. Thanks Lisa, for your very kind words. *hugs*