I consider Sandy one of the most humble and wise women I knew. As I speak to groups and individuals, I regularly share "nuggets" that she gave me. Insights that bring strength, Peace, acceptance and healthy growth. One group I speak to frequently calls them "sandyisms".
As the oldest sibling, she was given a lot of responsibility and felt significant pressure to meet the expectations of her parents (perceived or real). Drugs and alcohol consumed the pain and separation she felt in her early adult life....until it didn't and caused her more pain.
Sandy went on to find AA, an AA family and sobriety. Her walk in "the program" forced her to wrestle with God and herself in ways that littered her life with Truths that eventually were solid enough to stand on. Until they weren't...and pain and separation came again with mounting enormity. Her partner, Jer, and her parents both died. After 34 years of sobriety, Aunt Sandy began drinking again. After 2 years of sneaking and lying to her family (biological and AA), she got caught by a friend. That humble and wise woman wanted sobriety again...she confessed, brought her pain to light, let others into her story more fully, faced the facts and the realities of aging.
We talked more often. Her health challenges came a bit more frequently and she had an occasional fall that required friends to come by more often to help. We shared more frequently...especially regarding my mothers cancer and what stresses I was facing. She heard and understood me (also the oldest sibling). We seemed to share a language that nobody else spoke.
I can still hear her greeting me when I called her. She was giddy to connect when time permitted and totally trusted the timing so I never felt pressure to ring her. Yet, I wanted and needed to talk with her. As I shared the value of our time to me, she would assure me that I was never alone. That lesson was one I learned decades ago, but I (maybe like you too?) learn a lot of lessons again and again, rooting into them deeper and deeper.
Often as we hung up, she would tell me "Just pat your ass, honey. I'm always in your pocket."
In December 2017, I "heard" the whisper that if I wanted to see Sandy, I needed to plan a trip west. She and I talked about it and both were very excited to be in the same time zone, same space. In February the whisper said,"you really need to get the dates in place and buy your plane ticket". So we collaborated dates and I did go to Oregon to visit with Sandy in April 2018. The day after I landed back in Atlanta, she was hospitalized and made her transition less than a month later.
This picture was taken the morning I left. She and I talked while she was in the hospital and she chuckled at watching me splash in the puddles as I ran to my rental car parked in front of her little house. She had the best grin and giggled often.
I still talk to Sandy frequently and regularly pat my ass...I'm never alone.
For those of you who are facing grief this season, please connect to others. Share your stories and tell people about the gifts your loved ones gave you. As I shared after my mom passed, I saw the image of a wave coming to shore and returning yet some of the water seeped into the sand. She was the wave, fluid now. And me, the sand still in form. My mother and Sandy have returned to the greater whole, but have left themselves in me too. We are better people because of those who have poured themselves into us.