There’s an old New England saying, “A sea child dies on land,” and my sister, Karen, was definitely a sea child. She was born and raised on the Connecticut shore but moved to Texas as an adult and seldom got to see the ocean after that. Karen would have been fifty-five years old today. She’s been gone nearly two years now, and every day, when I look at her picture on my kitchen counter, I think of her and miss hearing her voice. I miss her laughter most of all, a gentle laugh that was mostly at herself. Or me.
I was nearly eight when Karen was born, my brother going on ten. I’m afraid my brother and I know very little of her young years because we were so much older. I don’t know who her friends were, what she liked to do and where she liked to go when she was in high school. I do know that music was in her soul. She loved singing and playing the piano and guitar. On an old computer of my father’s I found a file with my sister singing “Amazing Grace” in that sweet, soft voice of hers.
We never shared bedrooms when we were growing up, but I remember on the night before my wedding, Karen wanted to sleep with me in my room because it was the last time she would have her sister living in the house with her. I wish I could remember all that she said that night, but I do know she gave me advice on marriage that made me laugh, though I kept it to myself. We talked late into the night, a good way to end my years of living at home.
Karen became a nurse and worked in an operating room most of her career. When she was in her early thirties, she joined the Army Reserves, partly, I suspect because my brother was a military man and she greatly admired him, even though he used to call her “Chipmunk Cheeks” when she was little. Brothers.
Shortly after she enlisted, Desert Storm got under way, and her reserve unit was called up. She served as an operating room nurse for an emergency evacuation hospital in Saudi Arabia. It was there she contracted hepatitis C, and seventeen years later it took her life. So you can say she was a casualty of war, even though it took a long time.
I like to think that Karen is just standing on the far shore as I stand here on mine, both of us staring across the water as the ocean between us gets smaller and smaller over the years until one day we will be standing on the same shore together. I couldn’t let today pass without stopping a moment to remember Karen’s birthday. It matters very much that she lived, and I know she touched countless lives. I also know, as a sea child, she would have loved Alfred, Lord Tennyson‘s poem “Crossing the Bar,” so I will share it with you in her memory:”
Crossing the Bar
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
Wonderful tribute CE!
As the baby sister in a family of three sisters, I could feel the deep love you have for your sister through this poignant tribute to her life. Sisters share an amazing bond. Thanks for reminding me. I’m going to go call my sisters right now.
Do they live close by? I’m glad you have a good relationship with them. I think my daughter would have liked a sister, though she enjoys her two brothers. Now she has a wonderful sister-in-law and feels that she finally got the sister she never had.
I love you mom. I have to go blow my nose now.
Love you, too, Sweetie. Just had to keep her name alive.
siblings…. they are your lifeline… i wept reading your post… losing somebody dear can be painful beyond words and expressions… take care….
Thank you for your kind words. I carry Karen in my heart every day, so she’s still with me in a sense, but sure wish we could talk.
What a beautiful tribute and with your special way of telling this story, I feel I knew her. I have a younger sister who has Hepatitis C, contracted through a blood transfusion she needed after giving birth. I always say she is the nicest person I have ever known. She is doing well, for which I am very thankful.
I’m so happy to hear she’s doing well! I will keep her in my prayers, just as if she were my own sister.
I never had a sister, I can’t imagine how much you must miss her. Thanks for sharing her life with us. (visiting from Judith’s blog)
Thanks so much for visiting, Patti. Judith is wonderful!
This is beautiful, a wonderful tribute to your sister. I am so glad you left a comment on The Domestic Fringe, so that I could find your blog. I just read through the last couple of posts and I can’t wait to read more.
How kind of you to say so. Thank you D.F.
I’m sorry you lost your sister! This is a very beautiful post about Karen! I am currently writing a post about my sister, Emily, who is waiting for a liver transplant. Sisters are so wonderful!
I have enjoyed reading your posts in the past after hearing about you through Judith.
Thank you for following me! I will keep Emily in my prayers. My daughter’s name is Emily also.
Touching tribute–thanks for sharing. I am sure your sister enjoyed it too and is also waiting for you to cross the bar.
Hope she’s not too eager for me to cross the bar! Thanks, Patti.
This was so beautiful! I really enjoyed the picture of you three together when she was just a
little baby. Thanks for posting this tribute to your sister on her birthday!
Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, Linda. Do you have a website?
Susan our sisters are so very special to us and I am so sad that yours is no longer around to laugh with you and share your memories. This is a truly lovely post and I know that Karen would appreciate knowing how well you remember her and with what love.
Hugs from the other side of the world. Judith
I love my hugs from the other side of the world, Judith! Thanks for your loving comment.
A wonderful memorial.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, W.S.
Happy Birthday Karen. I’m so sad to hear of her passing. I agree she was a causality of war. Bless her heart. She sounds like a lovely soul and I think she’s looking down from above smiling with happiness at this beautiful tribute about her. 🙂
Happy Birthday Karen. From your big brother with love.
Very nice. Thank you, Mark.
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What a beautiful post! You are so lucky to have had such a wonderful sister. Thank you for sharing your lovely memories and remembrance!
I wondered if I should even post this because it was really just a personal thing, but I went for it anyway. Thanks, Julia.
I can’t begin to imagine the feelings of loss. I hope your memories continue to be a bridge. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for reading, Shelly, and taking the time to comment.
I know you are proud to have had Karen for your sister. I am inspired by the words you wrote of her. Beautiful.
Thank you, Julie.
A very touching post. I have three sisters, lost a cousin to Hep C complications 25 years after Vietnam, and when my grandfather, a WWII Navy vet, died, “Crossing the Bar” was the poem printed on his prayer card. We are gifted with our loved ones for far longer than we share our lives with them. Happy Karen’s Sister Day. 🙂
You are so right that we are gifted with them longer than we share our lives with them. Love the way you put that! Gives me a lot of comfort, especially since just my brother and I are the only ones left from our nuclear family. Glad “Crossing the Bar” meant something to you, too.
I’m so glad she has a wonderful sister in you to keep her memory alive!
Thank you for taking the time to tell me so.