Something made me put on a Beatles station this morning, and that made me think of my cousin Wendy. She loved the Beatles, especially Paul. Then I realized, this is about the time of year she passed away, so I checked her obituary and what do you know, today, April 16, is the anniversary of her death. Her spirit was tapping me on the shoulder 😉 It’s been 4 years. She was 50. She battled MS for literally half her life. We grew up together, we went to school together, and we were the same age (her birthday is February and mine is November so she was a grade ahead of me).
We were close for a few years in middle school and high school, and then we kind of drifted apart. But when we were close, we were really close, and we had a lot of fun together. The memories that stand out are going to Orioles games and local festivals, going to HersheyPark, and hanging out at her house playing chess and snacking on those pastel nonpareils! Good times!
I regret that we grew apart, and I own that one. I was a self absorbed teenager, I’ll leave it at that. And then when she received her diagnosis, I pulled away even more. My mom had died the year before- I was 23 and Mom was 55- and I was wrapped up in my own world. I remember seeing Wendy at Mom’s unveiling the following year. She needed help to walk, and I froze.
I always adored Wendy’s parents, Tommy and Marie. Tommy was my dad’s first cousin, but honestly I think Marie was Dad’s long-lost twin sister. They had a great connection and the same sense of humor; they got each other. I was close with Marie too, since I spent so much time at their house when I was young. I adored her.
Wendy and Marie reached out to me periodically over the years, calling me on the phone and sending holiday cards; I was receptive but I never in turn reached out to them. I’m not sure what changed, but at one point I let my guard down. Maybe it was when my son was born. All of a sudden, I could relate. I sympathized with Wendy as I watched Harrison struggle with medical issues. I empathized with Marie, for now I too was given the role of lifelong caregiver. I welcomed their phone calls, and I called them too. They supported me, and I supported them.
Wendy’s speech became more difficult to understand, but it didn’t faze me. She still had the best laugh, and all I wanted to do was make her laugh. She loved me, more than I realized, and I loved her more than I realized.
I started making it a point to visit Wendy and Marie (Tommy had passed away a few years after my mom did) every time I went home to Baltimore, and Dad usually came with me. I brought Harrison home with me on one of those visits; Wendy and Marie were anxious to meet him. It was a really special visit. Somehow Harrison knew he and Wendy had things in common. They bonded right away.
I treasure the images I captured that day. What photographs do you have that make you feel warm and make you smile every time to look at them? Will you remember to keep taking those pictures and holding onto those memories?