(--part of this blog is an excerpt from my memoir, Finding Mary: A Journey of Reclamation.)
“I always believed in living for today because I might not be here tomorrow.”
June 17, 1973 was a beautiful summer day. My 16-year-old sister Louise woke up and lived for that day. None of us knew she would not be here tomorrow.
It was Father’s Day, and the compound buzzed with the energy of children – eight of them. I was the youngest at the time, only four, and don’t remember if I said goodbye to Louise that warm summer afternoon.
Louise had her license and a car, and in only a week, she would have finished her junior year of high school. An honor society certificate hung on her bedroom wall, next to an award for perfect attendance. Despite being an introvert, Louise had a large group of friends and eight younger sibs who adored her.
She filled her days with school, work at the shoe factory, trips to the ocean, baseball on the neighbor’s lawn, and mini-bike rides. I recall the smell of eucalyptus and menthol as I stood on tiptoes near the bathroom sink, and she swiped some Noxzema across my cheeks. Of course, where there are teenagers there is mischief and at our house it seemed like someone was always getting caught smoking cigarettes or teaching me to write swears in the sand, but our home was lively and fun, and always felt safe. Until that particular Sunday in June.
That day, Louise pulled on a comfy pair of patched, hip-hugger, bell-bottom jeans, and a flower-print sleeveless blouse. She brushed her shoulder length, straight, blonde hair, sliced a perfect middle part, and tucked each side behind her ears. Just a sweep of Yardley Cheek Gloss would suffice. She wiped the residue from her fingertips and tossed the compact into her brown leather purse. She grabbed her Dr. Scholl’s sandals slid her feet under the red, buckled straps, and bounded down the stairs.
It was just before noon when my pretty, petite, 16-year-old sister climbed into her pea-green ’64 Nash Rambler with her sidekick, our sister Tammy, ready for an afternoon of teenage fun in the 70’s. Peace, love and good vibes.
“Happy Father’s Day!” she shouted to Dad, waving an arm out the driver’s side window as she and Tammy left the yard in Louise’s Rambler. Louise never came home.
I hope I said goodbye. I hope I told her I loved her. But I don’t remember. I was busy riding my big wheel in the driveway, trying to spin out in the gravel like the commercials on TV.
It had seemed like any other day.
The message today is to cherish your loved ones and the precious gift of time you have been given with them. Be in the moment 100% as often as you possibly can – that is where lasting memories are made. Don’t ignore the fact that someday, these memories may be all that you or they have.
The opening quote was printed in the first page of the 1974 Tourtellotte Memorial High School Yearbook -- the yearbook dedicated to my sister Louise. As I write this post on Sanibel Island in Florida, I pick up the phone to call Mom and Dad and tell them I love them. On this day, more than any other, I take care to live for the moment.
It’s June 17, 2021, and it’s a beautiful summer day. I love you, Louise. And yes, I live for today, because none of us know if we’ll be here tomorrow.