My sister Merry was a force. She was a red-headed Wonder Woman, packed into a 5’2” frame. She was a tsunami of energy when it came to getting a project done. She could accomplish more in a 24-hour span than most anyone I know.
Whatever you needed done, you’d want Merry on your team. Need a room painted? Need to create a detailed spreadsheet (with several mathematical formulas)? Need your house cleaned for a graduation party or reunion? Need to hook up a printer or a computer? Install software? Need your lawn mowed? Need a creative idea for a birthday gift? Need to plan a trip to another country? Merry was your gal.
And if Merry didn’t know how to do something, she researched it, figured it out, and then got it done. She learned how to lay tile in a friend’s basement. She collected and perused data, comparison shopped all the products and sub-contractors for the home she and her husband Tom built, and then created a detailed spreadsheet with prices and timelines – all while she was undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer. She wanted so badly to have it completed before she died.
She wasn’t solely focused on doing something, just to cross it off some checklist; Merry was the epitome of generosity in her many deeds. If she thought you needed…well, anything, or you happened to casually mention you could use a pair of good walking shoes, a week later a pair would arrive in the mail. You had to be careful what you said around her, or you’d find whatever it was on your doorstep or on her calendar of to-dos.
She was especially thoughtful in sisterly undertakings. She wouldn’t hesitate to suggest when I needed a new hairstyle (as only a sister could do) and would insist on taking me to one of her expensive salons. Merry even understood (before I did) when I needed a new career and put me in touch with her former boss at Augsburg who called and asked me to apply for a job before the application deadline – that same day. But I was at the Minneapolis airport, waiting to catch my plane in 30 minutes to Amsterdam, where I would have no internet or cell phone service for a week. I called Merry who coached me through the online application process over the phone before I had to board. I wasn’t even sure I wanted the job, but I trusted my sister’s judgement. It wasn’t until I returned home, when I learned that my resume hadn’t uploaded. Not to worry. Merry had recreated it for me and sent it to Human Resources before the deadline. Oh yeah, and I got the job. As it turned out, it was one of the best career transitions in my life.
If Merry thought I could use a good pep talk, she could provide one like no other. Last month I came across a poem she sent me 12 years ago when I was going through a difficult period of my life. It was titled, “Enough of this Sissy Shit!” (It also came with her loving reassurance that if anyone messed with me, she had my back.) You got that right, sister.
Merry had amazing fortitude. I think of her every time I feel like saying, “I’m too tired.” or “I don’t have enough time.” or “I just don’t feel like it.” She would have given anything to still be here doing any of the tasks so many of us complain about. (She had a sign that hung in her garage that read, “NO Whining or Sniveling.”) Even when it was apparent that she was nearing the end of her battle with cancer, my sister refused to give in, still hoping to join a last-minute drug trial — anything that would give her one more day on this earth. She could be stubborn that way.
Merry was always there when I needed her, which is why it’s especially difficult on this day, which would have been her 61st birthday to not be able to call her on the phone or see her in person. I still need her, as do many who knew and loved her. I’d like to thank her one more time for her presence in my life, and I guess I can still do that; but it’s not the same.
So, today, in honor of my Merry’s birthday, I’ve made a list of all the things I’m going to accomplish in the next 24 hours: rake and bag the leaves in our yard; get the oil changed in our car; help my husband Kevin hang some sheetrock; walk my 15,000 steps; write a letter of encouragement to a friend; read a chapter in my book about mindful meditation; clean the house; do a load of laundry; walk to the post office to mail the letter; get my hair done; call Merry’s husband Tom and maybe teasingly nag him a little using my Merry voice; send a card to my mother telling her I love her; hug my husband Kevin; finalize the annual financial spreadsheet for my photography business; make something for dinner; and finish this blog. Will I get it all done? Are you kidding? I’m no Wonder Woman…but I’m sure going to channel one. And at the end of this day, I’m going to sit down on the patio, watch the sun set, listen to the birds sing, and raise a glass to my friend and little sister.
Happy Birthday, Mer.
Love you forever.