June 21st would have been my oldest sister's birthday. Laurel was four years older than me and a solid rock of love and support in my life. And her untimely death was the result of two druggies getting behind the wheel of a big SUV and taking to the highway, in no condition to even walk, let alone drive.
She had a wonderful career. Her education was exactly that - education. She had her B.Ed. and spent her career working with young single women who had not finished high school, who usually had kids but not always, teaching them life skills, basic accounting and budgeting, interview skills and building their confidence in themselves and their abilities.
She had the most amazing talent with people - she was supportive, loving, firm, kind, encouraging and empathetic. She has been a single mum herself, when she got grants to attend the University of Manitoba's Education program to become a teacher. She worked hard and was on the Dean's Honour Roll every single semester, all the while juggling school with raising two young children by herself. So her career direction came as no surprise to any of us in the family when she told us of her new job.
She eventually met and married Les, who was her best friend and soulmate. He even adopted Laurel's daughter when they married, as her biological father has skipped out when she was about one year old. He became 'Dad' to Laurel's son, even though his biological father was still in the picture but not much of a role model. My nephew had the intelligence to realize a good father is not the same as a biological father, so HE adopted Les as his Dad and called his bio-dad by his given name.
Laurel was always there for me. Even as teenagers, she was my friend and as we became adults, we also became best of friends, not just sisters. It isn't every 20 year old who wants her 16 year old sister hanging around. But Laurel welcomed me into her social circle and I became friends with her friends and saw them almost as much as my own circle of friends.
Throughout my life, through all the ups and downs, joys and hurts, she was someone I could turn to at any time, to laugh with and cry with, to ask for advice and support. And she was always willing to do what I needed, even if I didn't know what that was. She was wise beyond her years, full of insight, love and kindness.
So on October 19th, 2005, when I got a phone call at work in the evening and heard that she had died in a car accident, my universe shifted. My heart was torn, my soul shrunken.... a huge part of my life was left in limbo, because there was no way to keep that part of the path open, without her to walk with me through life, sharing and caring, each with the other.
She would have been 54 today and would have been in the prime of her life, enjoying a rewarding career, a loving husband, and two wonderful children, who had grown into amazing young adults. Her two grandchildren, only one of whom actually knew her, will have to grow up without their Nana. Her son and daughter will have to go through life's minor and major events without their Mum. I have to go through the rest of my life without my Sister/Friend.
So, Laurel, wherever your energy is now, soaring through the universe, I am thinking of you, on this, your birthday, wishing you were still here to celebrate with, to talk with and laugh with, to love, to just be with....