My Sisters Eulogy… Celebrating Her!

Unconventional, non-traditional and just plain-old different. That’s what my sister was. And if gathering all together to remember her life at a sports bar isn’t testament to that, then I don’t know what is. There’s salsa music playing in the background. There’s an art station with a Forget-Me-Not painting for all to partake in. Poster board selfies and group pictures to help everyone go down memory lane. And no prayer cards here to hand out. Instead, you have a biography pamphlet the likes of a Playbill as your keepsake. Unconventional to say the least.

My relationship with Nitza was no different either.  Even before I came in to this world she had made me an aunt. My only sister was 19 years older than me and hence began our awkward trip into siblinghood. We encountered some of the stereotypical ordeals many siblings go through. She’d yell at me when I’d touch any of her belongings. As the older sibling, she always thought she knew better. She’d give me orders and I would ignore them. And she’d try to pin our mom against me, all to win an argument and reign proudly as the firstborn. My most “traumatic” sibling rivalry memory?… I was 13 years old and I was having a hideous, frizzy, looked like a boy hair day in the 80’s. My mom who was big on understanding the ordeals of vanity, to my relief agreed to keep me home from school that day. But instead of having my sister on my side, she reminded my mother that beauty is skin deep and that she should not encourage the importance of outward appearance. She tapped in to that motherly guilt. Nitza one, Elke zero. To my dismay, I was sent to school. 

For all you here that have siblings I’m sure you can relate. As a kid though, I was torn between needing that sisterly bond with this adult woman, and just viewing her as another parental figure. And she was equally as torn. But despite this, I carry with me the fondest of memories of my sister. She meticulously put my hair up in rollers for my 4th birthday. She took me on my first pony ride when I was 6. She gave me my first lessons in playing handball when I was 9. She’d take me with her roller skating to the rink when I was 11. She taught me the intricacies of tanning when I was 12. She took me to a Menudo concert when I was 13 (I guess to make up for the hideous hair day ordeal). She’d badger me with boy questions when I was in HS. She gave birth to my beautiful niece when I was 15 (yes, I took that as a personal gift to me). She gave me advice for my “first time” to drink some champagne to help me relax.  When she found out I got plastered and sadly couldn’t do anything that evening because the room was spinning so badly, she laughed at me, and told me “I said SOME champagne tonta, not the whole bottle!” then gave me a hug.

And with all the beautiful, funny memories also came the arguments, the difficult times and the sad moments in life as I seemingly caught up to her. We were now two adults and both moms, with still a 19-year age gap. We always butted heads. We never let the other win an argument. She complained a lot, and I rolled my eyes a lot. I’d stand my ground and she’d get frustrated. She over shared and I under shared. But again, despite all this push and pull, when I needed an ally I knew that Nitza would be ready and willing to fit that role. 

She longed to listen, and did. She longed to be the shoulder I needed to cry on, and was. She greeted me with open arms whenever I’d have a shift in life or beliefs. We were the epitome of two sisters always trying to fit a traditional role knowing there was nothing normal about either of us.

And that’s what I hold closest to me about my sister. She was different. She was a lot of woman, a lot of person. She would laugh and dance and sing; and use that very same moment to be emotional, deep and reflective. You never knew what Nitza you were going to get at any given moment. She didn’t have to fit in to any expectations except her own. She was loving and strong, she was sympathetic and bad-ass, she was independent and needing of others. She was both the ying and the yang, the black and the white, the ups and the downs. And for some people, THAT may have been too much,, SHE may have been too much, I get it. But to the women in my family, to my sister, that was and IS our normal.

My sister was and will forever be loved.  People may think that not seeing eye to eye, or arguing on mostly any topic can compromise one’s love. But not when true love is involved. I have true love for this woman. And it pains me that I won’t be able to argue with her again. I won’t be able to tell her “I told you so”…again. I won’t be able to remind her that it doesn’t matter that I’m the younger one. I will have to dig inward to feel her, to hear her and to smell her scent. I will miss my dear sis dearly. But what keeps me going is that I am forever bonded to her even in this new stage of our lives. Yes, our new stage, because that’s what keeps us unconventional folks going.

So, I want to leave you with this. I don’t want people to remember Nitza in her finest days, or just in her younger vibrant years because that would mean her life stopped way before it physically did. I want you to remember my sister even at her worst. Nitza suffered from depression since childhood, and yet she never allowed it to stop her. She loved being out and about. She loved nature and sports. She loved dancing. She loved life. In her last three years, she struggled until the end. She wasn’t ready to go. These last three years of struggle NEED to mean something. What would my sister want you to learn from her early deterioration? That you need to dream NOW, act Now, make it happen NOW. Do something you love. Spend time with those that you love. Try something new. Do something scary. And be kind to others and especially to yourself. And in that way, you make my sisters unconventional story part of your history and wonderfully, also part of your future.

See you in my dreams Sis!

 

— The Pretty Platform

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Son’s Open-Heart Surgical Scar Reminds Me Of…

Would you say that you are one of the many people today that lean heavily on the statement… “everything happens for a reason”, especially after an emotional event? Attaching a meaning to a traumatic moment seems to help many cope with the shock that trickles in quickly thereafter. Although I could empathize with this very “protective” behavior, I do not believe the mainstream superstition behind this claim. But I will admit that I have an ability to work out a lesson nonetheless; a “what’s the moral to this story” from almost anything that has occurred in my life. We can all thank our favorite childhood fables like The Boy that Cried Wolf or Little Red Riding Hood for instilling that useful habit. After each relationship, I’ve learned how to make better partner options. After each uncomfortable call with a debt collector, I’ve learned better budgeting skills. After each medical scare I’ve learned how to take better care of myself. Even after burning toast a few times, I get to “know the settings” of each new toaster allowing me to achieve a perfectly golden brown slice. Aside from the toast, these experiences have provided very valuable lessons that have changed my life … although my oldest toast-lovin’ son will beg to differ on the latter. He says I make the best buttered toast. Now there’s an accolade you don’t often come across.

I’m very comforted by the fact that I personally bear the control to draw out the lesson (or lessons) from all that happens, and NOT that every event was set, destined or allowed to happen to provide me with a lesson or test.

Think about that for a minute. Imagine IF for just one second I was wrong.

My youngest son who is to turn 4 in a few months comes to mind. Some know my experience with him, but I’ll fill you in. When I was about 6 months pregnant, my munchkin was diagnosed with TGA (Transposition of the Great Arteries). In a nutshell, a fluke in his arteries. They were flipped from their normal position. Simply put… he could survive “normally” inside of me since I was breathing for him, but he would not survive in the real world without having to undergo open heart surgery for an arterial switch immediately after being born.  We had already gone through 2 rounds of IVF to create him, now we had to keep him alive.

When I look back at the moment I shared the medical news with others, an outpouring of emotional suggestions came with it. Pray to god was the most popular. Pray to Jehovah for strength and comfort. Some even went as far to assure me that “everything will be alright”. There were other reminders sent my way… “Jehovah doesn’t abandon those that serve him” and “God does not test us beyond what we can handle”.

We set out for the best surgeon for this procedure. We carried on until the memorable day that my son came in to this world. I couldn’t even touch his newborn skin since they had to rush him away to get him hooked up to a breathing tube and stabilize him. I saw him for only 2 seconds then I was left in that room, alone, to contemplate all that had happened to lead up to this moment and to meditate on all that we would about to experience.

Fast forward … my son survived it, and so did we. So, does that mean that everyone was right? Everything WAS going to be alright? God did not abandon us? He gave us the strength needed?

What lessons did I make sure to pull from this experience?

  1. If what others or what the bible teaches is correct, I would have to rest on the fact that God had tested us. He tested us with the life of an unborn child. An innocent baby. A human life. Sure, it wasn’t beyond what I could handle, but it does not minimize the lack of moral standing of testing someone with the life of another.
  2. I gained strength in the love I had for my son. I gained strength as all parents do when it means having to protect their young. We had insisted on creating him, no way we were giving up now.
  3. Prayer did not help save my son. A cardiologist that detected the condition early on did. A team of doctors that came together. A surgeon did. His skill and experience in this procedure gave my son a chance of survival. And a blood transfusion is what sealed that deal. Even though the surgery itself was a success, a child that small and new could not generate enough blood on his own to bring up his levels. And according to the religious organization I once belonged to, that action in itself is going against god, so obviously, god did not save my son, nor was god with us.
  4. That morality and a sense to do good and what’s right comes from within and from logical thought. Not through the hundreds of different teachings and beliefs in the world.

Seeing my son’s scar is a constant reminder to live, to explore, to learn and to grow. And saving my son’s life was the moral thing to do, the right thing to do, the human and loving thing to do. And how dare anyone try to tell me or guilt me in to thinking otherwise.

— The Pretty Platform

 

 

Have Anniversary… Will Celebrate

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What causes you to celebrate? Is it getting that beautiful diamond ring from your boyfriend? Or maybe the offer of that dream job? Did you see that highly anticipated plus sign on your pregnancy test after two years of trying? Or receiving the finalized divorce papers from the lawyer? Hey! Don’t judge. Reasons to celebrate come in many forms. For some its hearing that the tumor is benign; or that the hospital found you a perfect donor match. Others dance at the news that the person that wronged them was brought to justice and their ass is now in jail or paying the consequence. I’m just sayin’.

Moving on… these are what I call life’s big-ticket items. Front row seat, all out celebrations. But why leave celebrating for just the big things? Your son got an A on his test? Celebrate. Your two-year old made his first toilet donation? Celebrate. Make an anniversary out of anything that is truly important to you. Go ahead and celebrate each year the day that you bought your first home. Or why not celebrate the anniversary of when your kids graduated college? Here’s an awesome website that gives you 365 quirky and insane holidays to celebrate. Pick your poison.: 365reasonstocelebrate.wordpress.com.

This week I choose three reasons to celebrate…

***First and foremost, tomorrow my most inquisitive 5-year-old turns in to my most inquisitive 6-year-old. That’s right, on April Fools Day… that’s double the fun.

Cristian

***Then this past weekend was my one year anniversary of The Pretty Platform. This blog is a huge part of me… so pass the wine.

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***Then, on Friday, April 3rd marks the day my beloved and so very missed mother was born. A perfect time to reminisce the great moments we had with her.

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So… here’s to Cristian, to The Pretty Platform and to Mom. Thanks for giving us a reason to celebrate life. Next week will bring many more.

— Elke — I feel it so I speak it!