Making the best of everything

Early 1970s, camping at Kellettville, PA with my sister and brother. Our happiest summers were spent here.

Early 1970s, camping at Kellettville, PA with my sister and brother. Our happiest summers were spent here.

My sister Darcey was diagnosed diabetic when she was in elementary school. Over the years diabetes impacted every aspect of her physical health. This was evident in her drastic decline in vision these last several years. One day her physician sat with her and held her hand as he delivered the news that one eye must be removed and that the other would continue to deteriorate until it was anticipated that she would completely lose vision. My sister finally broke the silence saying, “Is this a good time to ask about medicinal marijuana?”

That bone-dry sense of humor was Darcey. The news could be dreadful, the obstacle immense, the prognosis poor and she would find something funny about it. Pretty soon she’d get herself and everyone else laughing. It was her way of coping. I had an anesthesiologist once confide in me, “Your sister is a lot better in person than she looks on paper.” He had just discovered something all of her friends and family already knew–illness and injury could break her body but nothing ever broke her spirit.

Last year she had some serious cardiac issues and everyone–family, friends, and physicians–thought we were going to lose her. Once again she proved everyone wrong and was released home with stern orders to “rest and recuperate.” She had a funny interpretation of what that meant. I was running some errands in North Warren on a hot summer afternoon and saw this cloud of dust along the berm on Route 62. It was my sister riding her electric scooter loaded up with K-Mart bags. I asked her what in the world she thought she was doing and she shrugged it off saying, “I know how sick I am, but I’m not going to just sit around in my apartment waiting to die.”

Anyone who has ever spent time with a loved one in their final days knows that people don’t die in real life like they do on television. There is pain, discomfort, grief, fear, and disorientation. The day before my sister passed, her daughter Erin came in to check on her in the early morning hours. Darcey had turned herself to the best of her ability towards her window and was watching the sunrise. Even in the brutal process of death that had stripped so much away from her she was still taking joy wherever she could find it.

Someone once wrote, “Happy people don’t have the best of everything. Happy people make the best of everything.” I don’t think I’ve ever found a person that this was truer about than my sister Darcey.