Birthdays are a big deal in our family. Growing up, we got to pick our favorite meal, enjoy cake and homemade birthday banners, and open presents. As adults, we continue to send each other cards and gifts to make the day extra special. It would be hard to let this week go by without acknowledging an important time of year and day dedicated to one exemplary woman. Our sister’s birthday is this week- today, in fact- and she deserves special attention. We celebrated this day for 39 years with her and we want to continue to celebrate her today even though she isn’t here. This year isn’t a milestone birthday, unlike last year which would have been her 40th birthday. As you can imagine, that was incredibly hard for many reasons. But this year allows us to reflect further on her birthday and more importantly, her. The word “hero” comes to mind.
There are many heroes and role models in life. We learned about a Special Operations Marine who was his brother’s real-life hero from our guest blog writer, Tyler. We also recently watched Michelle Obama's farewell speech, and were moved by her inspiring words : “Don’t be afraid...Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered.” We have been thinking about the unsung, non-famous, everyday heroes. A hero is defined as a person who is admired for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. We were previously asked by Working Daughter about our heroines, and we were grateful to be asked this and to answer:
“Our sister, Colleen, was our role model, because she was extremely hard working, made the most of her time, and managed to be good at almost everything. We still don’t know how she accomplished all that she did in her 39 years on this earth. In addition, our Mom is not only a Super Mom, she is also a Super Caregiver. She managed to watch her child decline and somehow kept it together while providing the best kind of love and support that only a mom can provide."
Until we watched our sister face the end of her life, we didn’t understand what a brave person was. To be told that your time is limited and a disease will take over your body and life, as you are just starting your adult life, is something that must be at the forefront of your mind every minute of every day. Yet Colleen had goals, ambitions, and people she cared about, and she was determined not to let cancer define her. She wasn’t given a choice, a different path to take, and she faced it in typical fashion - with grace, a fierce outlook, and a humorous attitude. She eventually had to accept defeat, yet she still managed to show courage in that acceptance, and we will never forget that. There are many people like her, facing their own uncertain future, battling illness, and we remind ourselves of that often. It is an incredible heartache, a pain that is unreal, but these everyday heroes pull themselves up and take it on, good or bad, each day.
Our sister fought cancer like the super human she was. She didn’t act afraid, but remained protective and concerned about OUR futures and OUR well being. Even in her most difficult times, she still mothered us and wanted us to be ok. She didn’t shut down, become enraged, or disengage from us. She came to a place of peace on her own - her own timeline, her own terms. And in her final stand, she yet again led by example. As Michelle Obama said, “Don’t be afraid.” Somehow she wasn’t. Colleen is our unwavering hero.
So on this day, we’d like to hear your stories. If you know Colleen, share a story or memory of her, or tell us about your hero. We want to celebrate all the unsung heroes today.