Happy #WineFriday! {and Every Mother (Sister) Counts}

Today, I’d first like to wish my little nephew-man a Happy 8th Birthday. I’ve been an Aunt for exactly 8 years, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job!

In my family, Matthew’s birthday brings both celebration and sadness (I think we do a pretty good job of hiding the latter from Matthew). This 48-hour time period, starting right about now, contains a series of events that I reflect on each year as the time passes. It’s not different from other days when I miss my sister, but the sequence of events of what happened comes back into my mind throughout the day. I know that around 7am on this day in 2003 she went to the hospital to be induced at 14 days overdue. Around noon, she was given an epidural. At 5ish, I talked to her on the phone (I was driving home and stuck in traffic in Somerville, MA).

Everything was great then—she felt awesome.

The last thing we said to each other was, “I love you. Bye.”

Matthew was born at 8:50pm.

And I’ll spare you the details of what happened over the next few hours.

But, when she died at 3:15am on October 29th, the world just changed.

The 28th/29th of October are days when I honor my sister by remembering what she went through…and I remember to wonder what it was like for her to face death at least semi-consciously while they tried to save her. I also honor her husband, who was in the room and 25 years old—who didn’t know if his baby was ok, and knew for sure that his wife wasn’t. Because no one should ever have to go through what he went through.

I’ll stop here, and just tell you that it has all made me a better person. I think I’m more realistic. More thoughtful, less dramatic. I’m more likely to see challenges as opportunities, and to realize that we all have a story. I’m not special or different for having lost my sister, and I also have anxiety about time passing, about her death being further in the past—in case that means she isn’t part of my life anymore.

I get good-naturedly jealous when I see sisters together, or hear people complaining about their siblings (I complained about mine too).

At my sister’s funeral I spoke about how she was bossy—and how she was always telling me what to do, even when we were little and she’d have me ride the horse-with-wheels toy up the hill and then she’d ride it down—then I’d go get it and do it again. And my mom told me I didn’t have to do that for her, but I kept doing it anyway. She always made me be the boy when we played house, and the boss (because that was supposed to be a boy) when we played Boss and Secretary (and she was really in charge as the secretary). Even in high school—when we stood at the bottom of our driveway waiting for the bus, and her friends stopped by and gave her a ride and left me standing there—I still loved it when she and her future husband let me cruise around town with them listening to country music (it didn’t happen often).I appreciate that she sent me cards and letters when I went to college, even with signed ink paw prints from her dog. She never stopped telling me how proud she was of me, and that she loved me. When I moved to Boston, she drove me there in my car, helped me figure things out and flew home on my first morning of work.

I remember those things everyday—they become a part of who I am, and I try to channel her when I need to stick up for myself or make things happen in my life.

I’m lucky—and I miss the fairytale life we probably were never meant to have but thought we would.

I have met a woman named Lauren Young, whose sister passed in a similar way as Jen. Lauren is running the NYC marathon next week in memory and honor of her sister, my sister, and other mothers who did not survive childbirth.

You can support her here!

Lauren sent me this t-shirt. I can't wait to cheer her on as she runs the NYC marathon!

I’m going to do a few things this weekend in honor of my sister. Below, I’m going to share a couple cards with you that she sent to me–and I hope you’ll write one to someone in your life for no reason other than to tell them how much they mean to you.

This is about 1/10 of the letters and cards I have from Jen. I keep them stashed in several different places among all my belongings. So I often stumble upon them randomly.
When we were young...we fought a lot. I remember thinking I hated her at times, and I'm just really thankful we had time to change that.
Jen and Steve visited me in Boston (in my 400 sq ft apartment) while my boyfriend at the time was out of town---all three of us slept on the California King...Steve was our neighbor starting when I was 8---so, yeah, he was always like a brother.

What are you doing this weekend?

I’m going to celebrate Matthew’s birthday at a party tonight with a lot of people who will also be remembering and honoring Jen.

Today, I’m also celebrating #WineFriday. Then tomorrow I’m dressing up for Halloween (even though I’m not so into the costume thing–I’ll be a good sport!)—I’ll be spending time with friends who are sisters and who know how important they are to each other.

And I’ll be cheering Joe on as he runs the Marine Corps Marathon. {Go Joe!}


85 thoughts on “Happy #WineFriday! {and Every Mother (Sister) Counts}”

  1. oh my. My heart aches for you and your family every time I read about your sister. I hope your  nephew had a fantastic birthday

  2. I am so sorry for your loss… thank you for sharing.  It is a good reminder to not take one single moment for granted!  Hugs!

  3. Its really sad to hear about the loss of a wonderful person ..your sister.
    Praying for all of you..b day wishes to cute boy..!
    first time here…love your space..
    very interesting posts..
    happy following you..
    do stop by mine sometime..
    Tasty Appetite

  4. Wow thank you for sharing your story. I have heard you talk about your sister before but you I want to again thank you for sharing your story and how it has impacted your life. 

  5. Thank you for your kind words.
    I haven’t much written about the details, but I’m planning to at some point (maybe not on the blog). The short story is that she died of cardiac arrest as a result of Amniotic Fluid Embolism (fetal debris enter the mother’s circulation). The funny thing is—we never believed this to be an actual “cause of death” because fetal squamous cells are often found in a mother’s circulation having not caused any issue. So, in all of these non-descript maternal deaths, no one actually knows the deep down cause (my friend Lauren suspects a certain drug used to induce labor in the case of her sister). The beginning of the issue was a distressing birth—Matthew was stuck for 22 minutes in the birth canal and the damage done to get him out caused bleeding they couldn’t stop. Over 7 hours they just kept trying different things to save her and stop the bleeding (historectomy, etc.), and finally it was just too late.
    I’ve tried to get involved with a small non-profit (in San Diego actually)—called the AFE Foundation. They do fundraisers, etc., but are still growing too.

  6. Thanks Love.
    Joe’s about to start the marathon in a few…fingers are crossed for a boston qualify. If he does, I’m thinking of celebrating for him with some Tiffany Blue accessories for my living room 🙂

  7. Gina (Candid RD)

    What a truly amazing and heartfelt post.  Thanks for sharing your sister’s story with us.  I know I’ve heard you talk about her before, but I never knew the story….it’s just unimaginable.  I’m glad this day still gets to be a celebration though, for the birth of your nephew.  I bet he’s amazing!

  8. Hi Stephanie‹Thanks for your kind words. It has been quite a process for Steve. I lived with them for 6 months to help out, and then Steve took over—he’s a great fun dad (those boys love to be in the woods!), and this past year he has met a great lady who is wonderful to Matthew and helps a lot with some of the details that can fall through the cracks when a boy/dad is in charge (not to be stereotypical but…you know, like matching socks, signed permission slips). Matthew loves her and Steve is happy too—so we’re all so happy for them.

  9. Thanks so much for the kind words Cathy. You’re so right—I look at Matthew (and he definitely gave me extra hugs at his party on Friday) and it just boosts me up so much.
    Joe just started the race—I’m glued to the race map…time is going to crawl for me (for hopefully only the next 3:05)!

  10. Lisa, I have no words as I sit here with tears down my eyes reading about your sister. I never really knew about this. I knew you said that you were a caretaker for Matthew and that you had lost your sister but never knew she passed in child birth. I can not imagine how difficult it has been for your family but it is truly inspiring to read your story and how you celebrate her life. My father was killed in a motorcycle accident when I was 4 and my mom was 6 months pregnant with my brother. I look back and aside from me losing my father at a young age I really think about my mother and my uncles and aunt and my grandparents losing a child and then think about my siblings and how horrible and tragic it was for them.

    I am sending you lots of hugs and love and want to say thank you for sharing your story. XO

  11. Beautiful post Lisa. My heart hurts for you and Matthew and your (extended) family… I hope you have a wonderful birthday celebration!

    PS – Your idea about leaving the chocolate and raisins in the trail mix was brilliant and I have no idea why that never occurred to me before… I’m interested to see what it does to the texture but I’m definitely willing to find out!

    PPS – If/when you go to Vancouver bring 18 umbrellas and pairs of rainboots because that’s all it ever does here… blech. I liked it alright when I lived here but now that I don’t, I can’t wait to get away from it! A must-do is dinner at The Naam though. Google it (and their menu) – I think you’d like it!

  12. Lisa, I’m so very sorry about your sister. I couldn’t even imagine how much strength it took to post this. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

    Sending lots of love your way <3 

  13. Thank  you so much for sharing so many personal things of your life with us. I love reading your posts. I believe it takes a lot of strength to overcome the sadness of this day every single year, but like you said, it also made you to the person you are now. you learnt a lot from this experience and can only make the best out of the situation NOW. I hope you enjoyed Matthew’s birthday! 

  14. Thank you Stephanie. You’re so right—I am so lucky to have Matthew. He’s a little piece of Jen and his own person all at once. I’ve loved every phase with him, but now that he’s older we are developing this wonderful friendship too. He loves to hear stories about his Mom, and it’s great because he listens with such interest and asks lots of questions (without sadness, since he never knew her).

  15. I know that it probably took a lot to share those personal notes and feelings with us and I hope you know that we appreciate it so much!  It’s never easy to lose someone (especially a family member) and they say that time helps to heal (but I don’t particularly believe that – as it’s been 7 years on Nov. 13th that I lost a very close friend of mine, and it still just feels like yesterday, and it hurts just as much) – but I do know that sharing definitely eases the pain just a little bit (or it does for me).  Happy birthday to sweet Matthew and I hope you had a good weekend Lisa!

  16. Lisa, I am so sorry! what I can take from this is that life is extremely precious, and just as we need to honor the loved ones no longer with us, part of honoring them is to celebrate those close to us, and live life to the fullest while we can.

    thank you for sharing this – I’m sure Jen is still proud of you! XO

  17. Thanks Laury, and also thanks for sharing your story about your Dad. It’s interesting how when we read each other’s stories, we can reflect on our own situations!

  18. Oh good! I’m glad I could connect you with his story. He wrote a book too, which was quite good. 2 kisses for maddie.

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