Wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and a hockey jersey, I sat out in the morning air waiting for the sunrise. I gave myself that hour before I would wake up my family and give them the news.One of my earliest memories was my dad driving us down the Long Island Expressway on a cold, dark, night in the late 1960s. My half-sister, Liz was sitting on the middle (hump) of the back seat of the black Cadillac and I had my feet up against the side of the car and my head rested in her lap (that tells you how little I was). I laid there as Liz stroked my hair, comforting me. It had been a long day and I was “little kid” tired. I remember dark sky discolored by the reflections of the lights bouncing off the snow laden clouds and then I fell asleep. As I sat reflecting this morning, I checked my iTunes and couldn’t find the Doors, so I had to go to Spotify to put “Waiting for the Sun” on repeat. I thought about the lady I sat next to last Friday on a flight from Minneapolis to Denver. She told me of the medical problems that her son had since birth. I told her about little man with the beautiful smile we lost to cancer back in 2010. Then I told her about Liz and her bout with cancer. I told her of the aggressive tumor and how my father, now in his late 80’s was taking her for chemo. It was the first time I really spoke about Liz’s condition. This lady’s compassion for my father was striking. Probably 15 years ago, after not seeing Liz for quite a number of years, I stayed over at my Dad’s house. Liz was always an early riser and I found her sitting on the side of my bed waking me up to ask me if I was a Christian. Dazed, I remember telling her, “I’m a good little Catholic boy”. Christ was very important to Liz.
I woke up early this morning about 4:45am like someone had simultaneously turned on all the lights in the house. I got up and made my way to the living room. I had called my dad a few times yesterday to check on Liz but wasn’t able to reach him. She was hospitalized after an infection set in following her last chemo. I knew my half-brother had headed to see Liz, so I sent him a message on WhatsApp before I went to bed. This morning there was a message from him at 2:56am saying that “Liz passed away just now“.
I went outside to feel the cool air on my skin. I negotiated with myself for a while, but once it was irrefutable that the sun was up, I went in and told my wife. Then we told my daughter. That was when I lost it. We just saw Liz less than a month ago on a visit to New York. We arrived just after she completed a chemo session, so we didn’t want to stay to long, but we got to say hello, or goodbye as it turns out. I had to go into work today, not out of any obligation, but I needed something to focus on and focus I did though I found myself struggling with my role as a half-sibling. I struggled with the memories that came back. Siblings, you know them your (or their) entire life.
My wife checked in on me later in the day. Last week I saw a really neat card about Angels being all around us. I picked it up and made a point to mail it to my daughter before leaving for the airport. Was it coincidence that the angel card arrived on the day Liz died? It just reminded me that everything happens according to God’s plan, and even when we don’t know, we know.
Rest in Peace Elizabeth Marie Herrera.