Debbie J. Verner, 47

As I felt the holly water on my toes the Priest blessed the casket with, I held my niece a little tighter. Standing there, in the isle of Ascension Church, before my sisters casket, poll bearers before us, reality of the situation sank deep within my soul. In sync, as in a dance, my niece and unveiled a cloth that was to cover her casket. I don’t recall much of the service, but I do recall belting out my best notes just for my sister because I know she always liked my voice. The previous night, at her wake, in closing, I read the poem (pictured) and said a few words on behalf of my niece and family. I reminded everyone of the symbolism of the Caterpillar and the butterfly. I tried to assure everyone that Debbie is fine now. She is with her Mom. This I know in my heart. However, we need to make sure my niece is fine- out of respect for my sister. My niece is now an adult. She’s 24 years old. I was 17 when my Mom passed away. Regardless of your age, it’s hard. My sister was also the same age as my Mom when she passed. Though my sister didn’t have breast cancer. We are awaiting the autopsy report.

In a sense, my sister gave me a gift. I was able to become so much closer with my Auntie Judy. I was able to reconnect with family and friends. I didn’t have time to grieve before the wake and funeral because I was busy helping my niece. On the day of the wake and funeral, I felt it wasn’t my time to grieve…it was my niece’s and I needed to show her support. Now that I’m back in Minnesota, with my family, I can breathe again. I wish I could have stayed a bit longer in Chicago, however, as a Mommy and Wife, I have to put my boys above all. They need me, as I need them… I know all too well that grief comes in waves, like the moon and the stars. You never really “get over” it. What we can do is live and embrace the positive…happier times…the memory that lives within our heart.

Despite my differences with my sister, I loved her. I always did. The last time I was in Ascension Church was actually with her and my niece for Christmas mass…before moving to Minnesota. I remember she was trying to make me laugh about something…and we were right in front. We traveled a block in snow to get there…the weather was much different this day.

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