I a so sad to learn of the death of my sister-in-law, Joan. When I found the obituary on the internet I felt a quick stab to the party of my heart that had always been, and will always be, hers. Joan was more a sister to e than an in-law. She was a very 'giving' person, who was always 'on call' for anyone who needed her; especially her grandchildren or her children. She was an outgoing person, well known in her community and very active publicly. She was outspoken to a fault and always let you know what she really thought about you and about everything else - but not in a mean way; just painfully honest. So unusual these days. She was never a hypocrite.
Joan had a difficult life, but always did her best to accept whatever life gave her. Her health in later years wasn't the best but she never dwelled in it. She was a beautiful young woman but tragically she lost all of her hair and most of her teeth. She was very overweight which caused problems with her breathing and made finding a wardrobe sometimes problematic. Most people might have been so troubled by all that and become depressed and reticent to be in public, but she never let it reflect on her attitude. She just bought some wigs (blonde :), got some good dentures and found a great place to shop for concealing her weight, and then went about continuing to be the same, helpful, loving person she had always been; always well dressed and attractive as she could be, and her smile never changed.
We were very close when our children were young. I only had one brother and no sisters so we visited at each others homes frequently; especially for holidays. At first it would be at my home but as the little ones got old that changed. We had an above ground pool but she went out and bought an inground pool to be sure her kids mostly played at home with invited friends so they could be supervised. Naturally that's where my kids wanted to be also and that's where we all stayed together for special occasions. The cousins got along well and there weren't many problems; little ones sometimes but never big ones. Joan was generous to a fault, and very hard working and usually did most of the work. She enjoyed parties and had a talent for them.
Joan was a few years younger than I, but for some reason she was always protective of me. We didn't always agree about things, but we never had a big argument about anything and never left each other angry. We had very different personalities but no matter whether I agreed with her about something, whether I did or didn't do something she liked, our relationship never changed. We never stopped being friends or stopped talking to each other or stopped visiting or carried a grudge about something. I respected her beliefs and she respected mine.
As we got into our Senior years circumstances in both of our lives kept us apart, sometimes or long periods of time, but we still kept in touch some way whenever we could. I always knew that if I ever needed something, she would find a way to help. I don't know if the family or any friends ever realized how deep our friendship went, but that didn't matter because it was private and we knew. She was my best friend; the kind everyone should have or needed, but most never do. Being separated never changed our feelings for one another. From her I learned about loyalty and respect and sharing and most of all that no matter what life throws at you, it's how you handle it that counts. Nothing can defeat you if you don't allow it.
Joan and I were both strong, opinionated women in our own ways, but inside we were very much alike. Now that she's gone there is a very deep empty and painful place in heart that is hers alone. It will never go away and I will always miss her but no one else will ever fill that space. It's hers alone. Whenever I am in a situation that threatens to defeat me now or in my future (and there could be many as I even older) I will think about what Joan would always say, "It isn't what happens to either of us, it's how we deal with it that matter and I will always thank God for giving me that wonderful sister. Good bye, my dear friend and thank you. My heart hurts but my love will heal it someday.