My friends dropped me off after a happy hour that became a happy evening. I plopped down on a lawn chair in my parents’ backyard and took in the peaceful lull of a summer night. After graduating from Kansas State University I was back in Georgia living with my parents and working two jobs while completing classes for my teacher certification. My schedule was non stop, and I was feeling more certifiable than certified.
My youngest sister, Katie, was still awake and wandered out to join me. I was fueled by Miller Lite and filled with knowledge. She sat down next to me, and I began to impart my wisdom. Katie was six years younger, and a willing participant until I insisted she dance with me when “Every Little Step” came on the radio.
I am not sure why we took out the fancy glasses, but we did. I explained life was too short not to use fancy glasses. What you poured into your fancy glasses did not matter, what mattered was you opened the china cabinet and used them. We always tell ourselves later. Later we will celebrate, later we will do this or that. Later. That night we made a pact to use our fancy glasses often. When Katie graduated from high school and left for The University of Georgia I gave her a set of her very own fancy glasses. I told her to use them in good health, and she did. I was a proud big sister.
Katie graduated from UGA in four years and started a master’s program in pediatric audiology. I was married, living in Alaska and the mother of a newborn baby girl. Ellie was eight weeks old when we boarded a plane for Georgia. Katie drove down from Athens to meet her new niece and instantly fell in love. I will never forget sharing my first-born with people who loved her before they held her. Katie was happy, but she felt terrible. What we thought was a nasty virus turned out to be a devastating disease. A few days after our visit Katie was diagnosed with stage four Burkitt’s Lymphoma. She was quickly transferred to Emory University Hospital, started chemotherapy and died two days later. Her battle lasted six short days. Katie and I never had another chance to take out the fancy glasses. We lost our later.
The death of my sister broke me in ways I did not know I could be broken. In a two and a half month span I experienced the happiest and saddest moments of my life, but in grieving Katie’s death I learned about life. I learned to appreciate what I had previously taken for granted. For each year my daughter ages, my sister does not. It is my constant reminder that life is for living.
Katie lived her 23 years to their fullest capacity. She was all in, full tilt. I do my best to honor her memory by making the most of every day. I still have plenty of days I wish I could redo, but I have learned to seize moments and not lose my later.
Don’t wait for later. Say it, do it and never pass up a chance to take out the fancy glasses.
I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine. ~ Neil Armstrong