Sister Act

Most people would never admit this, but I’m not most people. I have laughed so hard at times that I have peed my pants. Of course, I have also sneezed and coughed and had the same result but those events correlated to age and childbirth rather than humor.

I think I got my sense of humor from my mom. My dad thought things were funny and would laugh and carry on but he could quit giggling at the snap of a finger. My mom and me, not so much. We would laugh until we nearly made ourselves sick (or wet our pants). Air gasping, sides hurting, tears streaming… And whatever the event that would start these uncontrollable fits of giggles, they would be just as funny to us days, if not years, later. Yes, we made public spectacles of ourselves on more than one occasion but the one that comes to mind and was probably our first public display just happened to be at the expense of my sister, Karen.

I loved to sing and began my sharing my “talent” with my church when I was around 14 years old. Thank goodness that they loved and cared about me as that first year or so was painful—for them and me but that’s another story. As I gained confidence, I expanded my repertoire. I would occasionally play the piano or do an instrumental duet with Karen, her playing the French horn and me, the piano. Where I made the critical, and hysterically funny (at least to me and mom), mistake was deciding to do a singing duet with her.

Karen is five years younger than me and very good natured. I come up with hare-brained ideas at times and she is usually a willing participant. Naturally, when I asked her to sing with me at church, she agreed. We were going to do a simple duet, “Give Them All to Jesus” by Cristy Lane, but even simple songs required practice. We knew that song inside out and were prepared for every possible disastrous scenario, except one…

That Sunday arrived and, as we stood to sing together for the first time, we looked out over a congregation, filled with family and friends, that had watched us grow from small children and was excited to hear us perform. I knew Karen was nervous because I grabbed her hand and it was ice cold. The first chords were played and we began on cue. We were singing and doing a fabulous job until the chorus. Part of the chorus was written as an echo. I started with “Give them all” and Karen echoed “Give them all” but the second time, her voice cracked on “Give.” At that precise moment, I looked at mom—the disastrous scenario for which we had not planned.

Believe me when I say this, you would never find a mom who was more loving or supportive as ours but she was also a mom who was finely tuned to our nervous systems. If we had nerves, she did too and I think it was harder on her watching than on us performing. That being said, mom and I locked eyes on the cracked “Give” and that was it. I spent the next 90 seconds giggling, tears streaming down my face and trying to catch my breath while Karen continued to sing.

I had no idea how my church family was reacting because every time I looked out, it was at mom. Actually, it was at the top of her head. She was bent over, laughing so hard that the pew was shaking. I could see my dad, mortified, poking her and telling her to stop but she couldn’t. Neither could I. And bless Karen’s heart (and I mean “bless” in a good way, not in the Southern way), she, much like my dad, never cracked a smile and sang until the song was over. At the end, all I could do was reach over, hug her, apologize and tell her I loved her.

It was then that I finally looked at the congregation. Everyone was clapping and a few were crying. Afterwards, nearly everyone, to a person, told us what an excellent job we did and that they were touched by our duet. Dad, on the other hand, forbade us to ever sing together again if mom were going to be watching in the audience. And mom and me, we laughed like crazy after church and years later, every single time we would talk about it.

As for me and Karen, there was never to be a “Sister Act II”. Since that fateful Sunday, we have been on many hare-brained adventures together at my urging but I was never able to convince her of a repeat performance. I guess love covers a multitude of sins except laughing through a debut singing performance with your sister!

Karen and me

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today, April 28, is my mom’s birthday.  She would have been 77 years old. I often wonder what she would have been like as she aged. She was active and interested in new things, especially technology.  She had her first computer long before I did and I’m sure she would have been texting or using a smart phone before me too.

My mom, Donna Sue “Susy” Yelton Deaton (I use her whole name, including nickname, as genealogy was one of her passions), was an amazing woman—she wasn’t perfect but she was perfect for our crazy family. She loved us without measure and was a great encourager to have in your corner.

She’s been gone since April 17, 2004. More days than not, I can talk about, tell stories and remember her with smiles and laughter instead of tears. Some days though, without warning, the grief will wash over me in waves and take my breath away.

I don’t know if we ever come to the end of grieving the death of a parent. There is always something missing. It’s like putting together a puzzle that has 1,000 pieces and when you’re almost done, you realize that you’re about 10 pieces short. You can see the whole puzzle but you notice there’s something missing as well. Thankfully, from my personal experience, one thing I’ve found is that the days eventually get better. They will always, from now and until I’m gone, be different but they slowly become better.

So, what about today, her birthday? I will acknowledge her special day and the fact that she not here with us to celebrate it. Ignoring these days tends to deepen the feelings of loss and isolation that often accompany grief.

Today, amidst smiles and a few tears, I say,

“Happy Birthday Mom. I love and miss you. Until we meet again, you will always remain in my heart.”

Your “favorite oldest” daughter,

Nancy Lynn

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