One night, the unspeakable happened. I was visiting my son, Alex, at Hastings College in Nebraska. My brother Mike and his wife Barb and my sister Jana drove out from Omaha to meet us for supper. It was a lovely spring evening in March of 2013, the week before Easter. In the middle of supper, I received a phone call from a detective in California and life has not been the same since. My sister, Cathy, was murdered in her home. There was no breaking the news to me easy; the detective was blunt and uncaring as he relayed some of the brutal details to me over the phone.
“Come on, let’s go in the forest,” my sister Cathy said. We liked to play in “the forest.” The stand of pines stood at the end of the creek that ran along our row of houses. We kids ran wild along the creek all year long and when we felt brave, or were double-dared, we’d range into that forest. Cathy and I were a team.
Standing here now, the little grave next to our mom’s had already been prepared with the vault entombed. It was open, waiting for Cathy’s cremains and some of her precious crystals and stones, the Bible with highlighted verses and pages smudged by her fingers, and her old dog Rebel’s paw print imprinted in a little circle of clay.
We were as close as two sisters could be, helping each other through every difficult thing life had thrown at us. Our mother died when Cathy was fifteen months old and I was two and a half. My father became a single parent to seven children, in order from oldest to youngest: GeorgeAnne (born in 1956), Jana, Julie, Susan, Mike, Sally, and Cathy, who was born in 1964.
Cathy taught my little daughter, Lynne, what airplanes were as they flew high overhead in the bright blue sky, only the word always came out, “Hair Pins.” She teased Lynne about that long into adulthood.
My son, Alex, was her “kindred nephew” spirit. She’d influenced the person he’d become because they’d spent so much time together and he knew all the things she’d taught him about crystals, and essential oils, and aligning their Chi. I never had understood this part of her, but Alex did.
Jana alone sat in our circle, with eyes wide open, she followed the litany around the ring; her mangled right arm held the order of service tight and she looked to us for some sign to begin her part.
Julie kneeled beside her and their voices began, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.” Jana’s soft scratchy voice blended with Julie’s. We understood the words through Julie’s clear voice and felt them in Jana’s whisper. Susan took up the scripture from there to tell us not to fear because God would give us strength. And God surely had done this by bringing us together. That day, and every day, we have relied on each other when our own strength has failed us.
Susan and Alex placed Cathy’s cremains in the vault as Mike intoned the Pueblo blessing, “Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.” When Mike finished, he took the small leather pouch full of small stones and crystals that had been special to Cathy and handed one to each of us to place in the vault alongside the urn.
We joined hands one last time, bowing our heads as our oldest sister, GeorgeAnne, spoke the final words from Crowfoot, “Life is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of the buffalo in the winter. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
We miss you, Cathy. And we’ve seen you in those breathes and shadows and in the night sky full of stars.