Hello! On this date in 1998, my older sister Ellen died at the age of 40 from pancreatic cancer. She had been diagnosed the previous August. This type of cancer is more typical in older adults, so it was a terrible shock.
From my perspective, at least, it was also a huge shock because of the kind of person Ellen was - she was very precocious at a time and place when kids in general didn't have as many accomplishments as kids of today seem to rack up. Yet while still in high school, she worked on local political campaigns, championed social causes(I remember her Caesar Chavez button, which she used to wear every day for some time)and attended a prestigious program in New York City for her senior year - a pretty unusual place to complete her schooling considering her small town Midwest background and the less-than-stellar curriculum our high school offered back then.
That same energy and intelligence carried her into the world of academics and to a career as a college English instructor. Yet among family and friends Ellen was probably equally known for her expertise in gourmet cooking - she could have been a chef at a fine restaurant if she hadn't stayed with teaching.
She was also artistic, loved throwing parties, had a lot of friends, was a devoted aunt, and when a career move relocated her to our hometown, was a huge help to Mom in helping her get ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas, especially the latter holiday.(Christmas hasn't seemed the same since - I miss her holiday cooking and the fancy gift-wrapping she favored for presents. To help our mom out, she'd also wrap all the presents Mom bought, and gave them the same glittery treatment.)
Closer to the end of her life, she added the role of mother, but sadly her daughter was only two when Ellen died. I can still remember watching her daughter play after the funeral Mass, knowing that she was too young to understand how much her life had just changed. But I know that the dad doesn't let their daughter forget, and what's more, she's maturing into a very nice young lady as well. I'm sure that Ellen is proud of her.
I will never really understand why her life was cut so short - and perhaps I'm not meant to understand. But I've wondered if that was one reason why she seemed to live life so intensely - perhaps she knew subconsciously that she didn't have much time and so she'd better accomplish things while she could?
I don't know - but what I do know is that even though Ellen has been gone 14 years, she is still loved and missed!