November 11, 1967 – December 31, 2010
On New Year’s eve, at 2 PM I was in the Poconos, jetting along on a snowmobile. I got off all exhilarated and high on life to feel my phone vibrating. I had missed four calls from my friend Liana. Liana and I have been friends since I was 12. Her family means as much to me as my own. With a sinking sense of dread I called her back to find out that her sister, Claudia, had died that morning. Claudia was only 43 years old so to say this was a shock is an understatement. Claudia was a complex and intense person, a loving mother and very talented artist (see artowrk at bottom).
Claudia is being laid to rest today in Chicago and I am so very sad that I can’t be there. My thoughts and prayers are with the family.
Claudia & Liana Rosario
I have been meandering through my writings all day and came upon this piece which was to be a springboard for a novel about sisterly love and what gets us through. It is my ode to Liana & Claudia, Sisters from another mother….
The coffin was glass, as she requested. Not practical, but beautiful. I could say it sparkled in the dying light but the sparkle did not come from the glass. No, not the glass nor even the fine, silvery essence of falling snow. The glow came from within…
My chest heaved as I stepped forward and time slowed down as my hands reached to wipe away the obstruction from the face of one I loved. I started at the top and my hands knowing their business better than my brain began slowly, and then with increasing urgency to sweep wide arcs through the snow until the top of the coffin was cleared. Visage. They had dressed her in a flowing Grecian gown of white. Her shoulders were bare, a vee at the neckline and her hands were clasped around calla lilies. As I asked, her face was turned to the side. Her right side, her best side, as she often called it, was the way she last wished to be seen. She looked as if she was gazing toward unknown treasures…and maybe that was true but her eyes were closed. Closed to all the world had to offer and the only thing left about her that still had life, cascaded over her shoulders, jet black on honeyed skin. Her features, patrician and carved, yet full and lush were still, as if she were deep in thought. It broke my heart to think that she would never think again or regale me with one of her stories. Her country yarns as we called them. No, she did not look dead…she just looked departed. Departed from all her concerns and all my love forevermore.
I rested my hands against the side of the coffin but they did not rest long. All too soon they were grasping the coffin as I sought to stand. To keep standing under the weight of a grief so strong that it bowed my knees and bent my back. I tried, my God, but the weight of sadness was so strong and pervasive that it stole my strength and so I slid down to my knees and rested my face against the side of her cold coffin. Tears washed from my eyes in sheets and the cold grabbed greedily at their essence. Some distant part of my mind felt my face sticking to the coffin, freezing as it were, but even that part of my mind did not care. The sobs rolled out of me like ocean waves and broke against the glass. They broke against the weighty injustice of a life, a God, that would take from me the purest, truest love I had ever known. What was just about that and where was I to go? Where had I ever gone that my sister Alyssa had not gone?
From the dark place that I owned, I heard Lyssie’s voice speaking to me. Her voice had lost the acquired refinement of education and was once again dominated by her Southern drawl said, “Sisi, why you take on so? You do our time together a great disservice wailing like that. You get on up off your knees, gurl. Get up for me. Don’t you know that the very best thing in my life was you? Always the sunshine at the heart of my smile. We moved through a place of darkness with only love to guide us. We did that. Love binds and love repairs. We learnt one of life’s most valuable lessons together when we were but twinkles in God’s eye. You made it gurl, you beat back every dark thing that ever dared to try and take you down. Your love will get you through, your kindness and joyous spirit. Remember to laugh because laughter is the weapon of the angels. My journey continues alone but I have all these wonderful memories to see me through. No one, no place and nothing could ever take that from me, or you, Sisi. Go do all the things I cannot. For me, have Blue Mondays and ice cream down by the shore on Sundays. Take time to watch the flowers as they unfurl and listen to the soft sounds of creation at work. Star gaze, moon gaze, ocean watch, drive the Autobahn, visit the Louvre and stand in the shadow of an Egyptian pyramid. Get busy living for the time you have left. Don’t cha know how we were blessed, gurl? Even in the darkness, even in our pain…God never turned his face.”
I never knew if that was her or a grief inspired delusion. I only knew that it was how I found the strength to stand with the help of my sister’s ghostly hand…