I wasn’t blessed with a sister. I had two brothers come along 9 and 12 years after I was born, and some of the mysteries of siblings somewhat escape me. I love my brothers, don’t get me wrong, but we don’t talk very often and when we do it’s about pretty simple stuff. I got married when they were still in elementary school and moved to Texas, so it’s just different, I suppose, from some families.
Like the one you see above. On the left is my friend Tanya. She’s also my daughter Cathryn’s “real” mom of sorts. They are hilariously similar in ways large and small. They laugh, they bring joy to everyone they meet and they’re the center of many people’s attention for their infinite goodness, love and strength. They sparkle. Cathryn dated Tanya’s son for a while, but even if she hadn’t they would still be close. When something happens in Cat’s world, she wants a hug from me, and then a hug and an hour to talk to Tanya. I don’t mind – love multiplies with both of them. They’re glittering soul-mates.
In the middle is Phyllis, her Mom. We call her Honey, which is what her grandsons Chase and Maxx called her when they were little and that just kinda stuck. Honey pretty much describes her, too. Without being cliche’, she’s the sweetest person I’ve ever met. She “adopted” my husband Ken a while back since they were both in the theater and had a million funny things to talk about. My husband would walk through fire for her. He adores her. When I met her she quickly became one of the women I most admired and loved, too – and I don’t like a lot of women, to be honest. She’s smart, always sees the good in people, shares her love and faith freely, and takes care of more people in large and small ways than most churches. She’s my hero.
On the right is Tiffany.
Truth be told, I haven’t spent a lot of time with Tiffany, but I know and love her as much as her Mom and Sister. This week Tiffany lost her hard fought battle with cancer. And for 487 days from the diagnosis until she passed, this was a journey that was gracefully shared with the world. There was a cord of three that showed the entire world what it meant to love someone through a crisis.
From the outside looking in, it was astonishing. And they had no idea how astonishing it was.
When Tiffany was first diagnosed, she came down to her mom’s house and we all sat on the deck overlooking the harbor and enjoyed the sunset. It was when things were still uncertain in terms of a treatment plan, and Tiff was in quite a bit of discomfort. That was the first time I saw them in action and it was completely foreign to me to see such love poured out on one another. Tiffany would shiver a tiny bit, and Tanya would move her blanket around her more tightly while in mid-sentence about something else completely. No words were exchanged about wanting the blanket moved or being cold. Tiffany would glance to her right for her glass, and Honey would be holding it ready to hand to her. They instinctively knew.
Tiffany became the center of their universe and they were orbiting her.
This seems simple. Most people wouldn’t notice these things. But it was indicative of what was to come. Tiffany was surrounded for the next 18 months with that same light, love and care. She was never alone. She never had to worry about anything except fighting hard.
That night, after watching a true family, I told Tiffany that I was jealous of having a sister. They never took it for granted that they were best friends, and never, ever missed an opportunity to say, “I love you” or smile.
She said that night that I could be her Sissy, too. She understood that love was meant to be shared and she shared it with everyone. She knew that she was loved without end, by her family, her friends and her savior. She understood that love was multiplied and never divided when shared with another.
I was not the only one that saw the miracle of her journey. When we had a candlelight service as she was sent home to hospice, nearly one hundred people came and prayed for Tiffany – who didn’t even live in Port Aransas. Most of us watched her journey on Facebook and cried as she lost her hair and cheered as she watched her beloved son graduate from high school. Every milestone was celebrated.
And prayed over. And praised.
Lesser families, and lesser women would have lost faith. Tiffany never did. She never lost faith that she would be healed – even if that wasn’t an earthly healing. She never questioned her God’s plan for her. Her mom and sister praised God for His grace and mercy. They prayed for the wisdom of the doctors and thanked God for the gift of time.
It was astonishing. It remains astonishing.
There is a deep sadness for me at her passing, that isn’t “quite” made better by knowing that she’s in a very real afterlife with a very real Jesus. I know she’s out of pain, and for that I’m grateful. Selfishly, I wanted her cancer-free and sitting on the deck at her mom’s house. I cannot pretend to understand why that wasn’t the plan.
But I will take the lessons that Tiffany’s life taught me, and watch the women that loved her best, and do what they do. Love, laugh, celebrate, praise and pray. Despite the sadness of losing Tiffany, they continue to praise their God. Their love carried them through and one can only hope to be loved like that in their lifetime.
Tiffany Beth, you were an extraordinary woman, from a family of extraordinary women. I was honored to know and love you. I will do my best to take care of your mom and sissy as they miss you for all time, but forgive me for not doing it as well as you – no one could.