My sister died this summer. It was unexpected and awful. She was funny, generous, thoughtful and warm. It was impossible to be around her and not laugh.
Amy was older than me by five years and so, naturally, I worshipped her. Years ago, she had a pair of purple shoes (it was the 80s!) that I coveted. My feet were smaller than hers at the time because I was only 10. She said that she'd give them to me when my feet were big enough.
Besides the shoes, Amy had many gifts that I admired - as a 10 year old, throughout my teens and later as an adult. She knew how to mark an occasion. She threw great parties, paying careful attention to every detail. She remembered milestones.
But it wasn't just the celebratory moments that Amy acknowledged. She knew the importance of marking the more difficult moments in life as well. When my oldest son was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Amy sent him balloons. His delight was infectious and he played with them for days until they fell limply to the floor. The balloons - and her act of sending them - did more to chip away at my fear and grief that you can imagine.
If I needed a laugh, a shoulder to cry on, someone with whom to be snide, Amy was there.
We had moments of conflict, too - no relationship is without those. But because of my history of hero worship, it was hard for me to stay angry with her.
While Amy was never "a teacher" she educated many people about many different things. She had an ability to help people see the world with an open mind and be willing to try new things. She enjoyed experiencing new things and was usually up for adventure. Amy talked me into parasailing, reading cool books, and going new places. As a teacher myself, I grew to appreciate and adopt her persuasive strategy of "come on - try it! It will be fun!"
One of the things that Amy was never able to talk me into was getting a tattoo. About three years ago we were at our annual winter family gathering. The weather was crummy and there wasn't much to do at the house we had rented.
"Let's go get matching tattoos!," she said. "Hell no," I replied.
In August, a month after Amy died, I finally got the tattoo. It is just her name, in her handwriting, on my foot. After all was said and done, I felt shabby that I had dismissed Amy's suggestion so quickly. It didn't really hurt all that much and I don't look like I am in a biker gang. In hindsight, I should have said "hell yes."
I love the way the tattoo looks on my foot. I love seeing her handwriting every time I look down. I like feeling as though we still walk together. Mostly, I love that I have an indelible mark on my foot that is a visible sign of the indelible mark she left on my heart.