I have taken two runs at this essay. This is my third. Deep breath...
My sister Marie was born on February 8, and I think the year was 1943. Doesn't matter. To me, she was ageless.
It's hard for me to pound out the words that offer sentiment equivalent to her meaning to me, her kids and our family. She was the biggest person I've ever known. When I think of her, I never feel anything but loved. there are so few people that offer that kind of energy, and she was the first one who introduced me to the potential of good within any of us. Marie was a power.
I first remember her being a Mom. I mean, my Mom. I was the youngest boy. She was the oldest girl. She was the closest thing to an engaged Mom I have had. We experienced our own Mother battled depression. She was dear, loving, extremely kind but often stagnant. Marie picked up the slack for my older brothers and sisters. Lovingly, but with strength. "Engagement," as the word applies to armies in battle, was her middle name. She got things done. We paid close attention. I knew this following rule even as a little kid: Do what she says.
She tended to our feelings to our needs, our frailties, with velvet and thunder. She loved every one of us.
I heard a story of Marie getting upset with my older brother Paul. She chased him into the bathroom and I was told she punched him into the shower, a right to the chest. Paul, a gentle soul, got out of the tub with the shower curtain wrapped around him. As the rest of the kids looked on, He stood up, put down the shower curtain and said, "And if you don't watch out, the same thing will happen to you."
You did not want to get on Marie's bad side. Good thing that all the rest of the sides, particularly the inside, shined brightly.
She was the strongest individual presence of I'd ever known, long before I knew the meaning of the word. She lived in Rochester, N.Y. most of my life, but I always felt her right next to me.
Marie remember us. We all meant something to her. She never missed a birthday. Written on every card to every person in the family, the beautiful Catholic Grammar School script, always ending with the highlighted handwriting were two words that felt like her arms were around my shoulders: "Love, Ree." There were no two more important words to any of us in our childhood and throughout our lives. We could always count on her to love us. Always.
I have trouble describing the depth of her kindness. She had a laugh that could pierce your skin and cradle your ribs at the same time. I remember making her laugh when I was six. I wish I could make her laugh today.
I spoke to her five years ago. We spoke for forty five minutes. Two weeks later, she died. When I think of it, it makes me sad that we had such little contact over the years. We should have spoken weekly. Sometimes, months passed between conversations.
I text her amazing daughters, Terri and Julie, nearly every day. Through group texts messages, our family that has been segmented through distance, resentments, and misunderstandings is coming together again. She'd love that. She made sure the nine
children knew how important family was. She was a Mom to all of us.
I hope she can see this essay from where she is. And I hope she knows all the people she's affected with her example of love, strength, and kindness.
The only appropriate way to end this essay is by adding two words to the the two most important words of love in our family's lives: (We) Love (You) Ree.