Dear Kathy

Laura-Kathy-1968“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” I know this as much from Pete Seeger and the Byrds as I do from Ecclesiastes 3. But from either source I find it meaningful. Both the song and the biblical chapter note that there is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to mourn and a time to dance. I mourned a year ago.

On May 25, 2014, I was able to spend one last afternoon with my oldest sister, Kathy, before she died, to share memories and stories and take notes as she told me what to include in her obituary. She had asked me to write it, and I was honored to oblige. She always had liked when I would write to her. So I guess it was appropriate that as her life was ending I would write for her.

Kathy left home for college just as I was beginning second grade. I was 7 and she was 17. I knew how to read and write, so it wasn’t long before I got out my #2 pencil and my writing tablet and began my first letter. I opened with “Dear Kathy,” and closed “With Love and Prayers,” as the nuns had taught me at Catholic school. In between I filled both sides of my wide-ruled paper with a “How are you?” and simple statements about home and school. And she wrote back to me.

Getting mail is a big deal to a little kid, so I continued to write to my big sister and she continued to write back. 1969 to 2014 is a long time, and there were gaps in our letter writing over the years. But we stuck with it, picking up the pace over the last decade or so.

We wrote about our husbands and our kids, her life back in Wisconsin and mine here in Iowa. We wrote about books we’d read and movies we’d seen. We wrote our way through the deaths of our parents and her six-year struggle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. And on our last day together, we laughed and cried and remembered our years as big and little sister.

Kathy died on June 5 and was buried on June 10, 2014. She was laid to rest in a secluded corner of a small town cemetery.

There are no more letters, of course. Instead I write in this blog and I imagine her reply. So in that regard, I’m still sharing stories with my dear Kathy.

Laura Sternweis

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