Tomorrow is my sister Annie’s birthday. If she had been diagnosed with Stage One or Stage Two colorectal cancer at age 30, she might be on this earth with us, still. Instead, destiny determined that she be diagnosed with metasticized Stage Four cancer. Lest you think 30 is not a tender age, believe me, it is. This week Annie would be 46 years old.
Whenever Annie’s birthday approaches my thoughts of her increase, and I miss her more. She liked climbing trees, and tree houses–I have pictures of her in trees from her earliest years. Sycamores were always a favorite. Seeing them brings me back to our family’s early golden, free-roaming California days. We never tired of running our hands over a sycamore’s remarkable, puzzle-like surface. In its infinite shadings, pieces and patterns sycamore bark is a natural work of art. The tree’s feminine, arcing shape adds to its great, welcoming presence, and it is filled with light.
Recently, writer Terry Tempest Williams posted a YouTube video, a short story about “a tree, a memory and washing dishes.” The piece was made in partnership with the Center for Digital Storytelling, and it is lovely. Here is the link.
The latest, most powerful way Annie let us know she’s with us, sitting pretty in some cosmic director’s chair, has to do with Super Storm Sandy.
For 10 years, I held on to Annie’s dense, warm, hooded sheepskin coat. I never wore it but could not give it up. Dropping it off at Browse ‘n Buy or some other local thrift store felt too random. When Sandy happened, a voice whispered that this was the time to send Annie’s coat to a person in true need; Annie worked in social services much of her life. I wrote a letter~~~ “a message in a bottle”~~~ describing to the coat’s new owner who Annie was, how much she loved the coat, and that if it were possible for the recipient to write me a letter saying they had the coat, it would be forever cherished. I wished them well and prayed. I took Annie’s coat to the local team personally delivering collected warm garments to the east coast.
A month later, I opened my Jackson Hole mailbox to find a crumpled, thin envelope. I didn’t recognize the sender’s name, but the moment I spied its Asbury Park, N.J. return address, I knew what the letter was. Heart slamming, tears of joy welling, I somehow found my way to my car and opened the letter.
“Dear Tammy~~I first want to thank God and you for keeping me warm this winter. I know Annie is very happy to know that someone is enjoying her coat she loved so much,” the woman wrote. “My sister is also battling cancer, and I know what hurt you must have been through with Annie, and I ask God to just keep my sister here with me day by day. With meds, money is short and we didn’t know how we were going to get more coats, boots and clothes. Thank Annie for sharing such a nice coat. I will take care of it, I promise. Just write back to let me know you received my note. Thankyou~~~”
I wrote back immediately. May miracles surround you.