My Sister Susie

When I started this blog three weeks ago, I thought it would be all grins and giggles. Funny how life slaps you upside the head, isn’t it? A week ago Monday, my husband and I were coming back from a fun vacation in Cozumel, where we’d rented a house with four other couples. That’s when I got the call from my brother in St. Petersburg, telling me my big sister had been in a horrible car accident in South Georgia. She’d been on her way to Atlanta, to visit my family for the Fourth of July. She never made it.
Instead of hosting a covered dish supper on the fourth, which was our plan, we had a family reunion in our hometown of St. Pete. My younger sister Patti, and her family flew in from England, another brother and his family came from Tennessee, and my daughter Katie and her husband flew in from Phoenix.
We had a beautiful service, and we did what families do—we laughed and cried and ate and drank and re-told funny family stories. But I wanted to tell you all about my sister Susie. She would have been 55 in November. My mom was 18 when she got pregnant with Susie, and only 20 when she had me—in fact, Mom had five babies in six years.
Susie was the one who taught me to read before I went to first grade—not because she was so sweet, but because she was tired of my pestering her to read to me. When she was just a kid, she read those old Cherry Ames student nurse books—and decided she would grow up to be a nurse.
She was an action junkie. She started out working labor and delivery wards in big city hospitals, and when that wasn’t exciting enough, she switched to emergency room nursing, working in ERs in St. Pete, Miami, Jacksonville and Chicago. She spent years working in Grady Hospital’s ER here in Atlanta—she called it the Friday Night Knife and Gun Club. Later she did AIDS research, and after that, she switched to being a hospice nurse.
My sister never married and never had kids of her own, but she adored my two kids, and fussed at and spoiled them like they were her own. After my mom died suddenly three years ago, she became my Dad’s primary care-giver, eventually giving up her job and home in Atlanta to move back to St. Pete to take care of him.
Susie had a huge, generous heart, a machine-gun wit and a motor mouth to go with it. She lived like she drove—full-speed, flat-out, take no prisoners. On Monday, my sister Patti and I stopped by the funeral home and picked up Susie’s ashes. We took her out to the cemetery where our parents are buried, and sprinkled her around their headstone. Then we drove over to the house we grew up in, and we sprinkled her around the yard. We took her down to the park where we all played so many hours as kids, and sprinkled her around the playground and the swingsets. Then we took her down to the place on Tampa Bay where we used to play pirate and Huck Finn, and sprinkled her in the water. I brought some more ashes home with me last night, and in the next few days, I plan to plant a tree and sprinkle her in its shade. I think she’d like that.

10 thoughts on “My Sister Susie”

  1. I am so very sorry for your loss. Hold on to your wonderful memories of your very special big sister. My prayers are with you and your family.

  2. what a sweet and loving tribute to your sister. words can be worthless, or they can move mountains… did your sister proud. i know she is looking down and smiling at you.

  3. I am so sorry for your loss. You are doing a wonderful job of celebrating your sister’s life. If you need to get out of your head for a bit, read one of your books. That’s what I always do. Thank you so much for the much needed escape you provide with your stories. I will be thinking of you and your family.

  4. Prayers your way, so sorry for a huge loss!! I think you are making her smile with the ways you are remembering her, that’s awesome!! May we all be remembered in such an amazing way~

  5. I’m am very sorry for your loss. Your tribute to your sister is wonderful.

    Tammie (long time fan and reader)

  6. So sorry to hear about your loss, continue to be strong and trust God’s timing. The ways in which you choose to remember your sister was very touching. My prayers are with you and your family.

  7. As they say: “only the good die young”, and it sounds like Susie was one of the good ones. I can also see that wit runs in your family, so family gatherings must be a hoot. Wish I could have known her.

  8. Mary Kay, I had the priviledge of
    meeting you at your book signing
    at the Kroger on Hwy 17 in
    Savannah, Ga.(Savannah Breeze)
    I’m so sorry to hear of your sister’s death. I think you found a wonderful way to honour
    her memory.
    I had a sister, Susie too.
    When she left us, there was a poem read at her service. One line of that poem went something like “God’s garden must be beautiful, He only takes the best”
    God bless you and your family and treasure each moment of
    the memories you make with them.
    Beth Culver

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