Tuesday, May 16, 2006

In memory of my sister

Nola Jean Grant
May 16, 1960 - July 3, 1983

Today my sister would be 46; next week I'll turn 47. For 5 days we were the same age (a lot alike) for complete opposites. She was the laughter. The free spirit. Often the leader finding some form of trouble for all of us to get into - a neighborhood full of kids; lots of cousins. It usually seemed like a good idea at the time. She was the one we sent to "ask mom" for something; if it was the only hope. Encouraged with "Mom will say yes to you; cry if you have to!" often she went to get us the response hoped for. She had a temper.
She was no angel.

At 3 our tricycles were hung up in the rafters of the spare room. Out of reach for a month. To this day I'll swear it was all her fault! She bit my face. Little angry teeth marks covered my entire cheek; because I took MY bike back. The one with NO missing shiny hubcap. I saw a tricycle on the side of the road yesterday, waiting for trash day.
I almost rescued it.

Nola was a unit secretary at Eastern Maine Medical Center; on the fourth floor - where cancer often ended the lives of strangers she grew to love; in a very short time. And their passing would break her heart. Until another needed her smile. Her cheer. And their smile back was the thing that made returning to work where people died.
Nearly everyday. Bearable.

Our Guardian Angel watches over us. Her name is Nola.
Nola died at 23.

Five minutes from home. Five minutes from a picnic area on a sunny afternoon. Her boyfriend Lance and our cousin Dwight were in the back seat; his wife Sylvia was driving and baby Faith Ann & Nola were in front.

She volunteered to work on that July fourth weekend so co-workers with children could have the day off. A quick outing after work.
Best Friends together.
Today Dwight remains in a wheelchair.
From that day to this.
Sylvia has remarried.
Annie has a family of her own now.

Witnesses said afterwards the 19 year old was passing everything in sight. The state trooper put William Haney Jr.'s drivers license in my hand the next day. It was said he had been partying, woke up to discover he was late for a job at KFC; so he drove fast. And recklessly. Hitting them nearly head on.
Less than five minutes from home.

I was home with our new baby Sara, born March 18, 1983. Tom had gone fishing for the afternoon and had actually driven past the accident scene, not knowing it was someone he knew. Someone I loved. On July 3rd all of the newness & wonder of having a brand new baby was smashed by grief. Sorrow. Despair. ANGER. Loss. I can still hear a wailing scream in my head when I remember being told the news.

We couldn't find mom and dad. To tell them this awful thing. They'd gone for a ride, met up with friends with an extra bed in their camper and stayed overnight. An impulse drive in the opposite direction we thought they might have gone. An all-points bulletin by the police failed to find them. The vigil began. Waiting in a little trailer next door for mom and dad to come home.I can still hear the scream in my head when I remember telling daddy on his birthday.

They could tell something was wrong.
Something was bad. No, Grammie Grant was okay. So much worse. I don't know how parents get through something like this. I've only experienced it as a sister. Dad took up golf because his older brother recognized he needed something to save his soul. I think it helped. He still plays.

Mom. Today is hardest probably on her. I couldn't bring myself to pick up the phone today. I stopped in yesterday but she wasn't home. I'll call tomorrow. How can another year slip away?

One of the last pictures I have of Nola is of her holding Sara. I knew what LOVE looked like the first time I saw Sara's Aunt Nola hold her.
Look upon baby Sara with love. And I knew what Love (and that look) felt like the first time I held our brother Kevin's baby Kyle.

With sadness and some guilt I know that everything new, every first for our 2 daughters has been measured by me, at least for a moment,
by the absence of Nola. Whenever there's a moment of uncertainty at how long it's been without my sister, I remember it can be measured by the number of birthday candles on Sara's cake. Stephani Nola is enough like her namesake to be a little frightening. Laughter and free spirit. And NO angel!

But I have to believe one watches over them.


Carrie K said...

What a beautiful tribute and what a terrible thing it is to be giving her tribute and not having a dumb birthday party for her.

stephani nola said...


(although i'm sure our sweet & all-knowing puppy is already giving you tons)

joe tulips said...

This is so touching. Loosing a sister so tragically. Reading it brought back my own memories of my sister, we lost her to cancer. Mine never bit though.