One year ago this week, we laid my sister Angie to rest. Yes, at 46 years old, she went to be with our mother in heaven. For 9 months she battled breast cancer but in the end, it was just too much for her small framed body to handle. She was so brave during her fight and she never gave up. I remember last July being in her hospital room and she asked me to close the door. At that moment she started discussing their will and plans for a future without her. I immediately said to her, "you're not giving up are you?" to which she quickly responded "absolutely not! This is something we should have done a long time ago." She'd only live a few more weeks after that day but she continued to fight on until her last breath of air had left her body.
Angie was my only sibling and losing her has been very hard on me. But I am not the only one who has spent the past year trying to get answers to why bad things happen to good people. Angie and Patty were best friends since the 6th grade. I lost a sister and Patty lost her best friend. I think it is safe to say that we both feel that a part of us died that dreadful day last August. The pain of losing her is a wound in our hearts that will never fully heal. Losing her has made us face our own morality and ask hard questions on how we want to live out the rest of our lives. Losing Angie really was the catalyst for our Summer of Someday Tour and will guide us for years to come.
On our way home from the Pacific Northwest last month, I came across an Instagram post that showed the Ingall's Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota. It immediately got my attention because Angie had been a huge fan of the Little House on the Prairie show and the Laura Ingalls Wilder book series. She had used the books and materials in her classroom. I can remember her on multiple occasions saying "someday I want to visit where the Ingall lived." Unfortunately her someday never came. It was at that moment when I realized that De Smet was on our route home that I knew we had to go for her. I immediately looked up the Homestead and found out that not only can you visit it but you can also camp there at one of 4 sites for $30 per night. Patty quickly began dialing in hopes that a last minute reservation could be had and thankfully they still had a spot available. We were on a mission for Angie or at least a path to hopefully help us in our ongoing grieving process.
Camping on the 160 acres that Charles Ingalls homesteaded in the last 1800's was a surreal experience even if there wasn't the tie to my sister involved. The Ingalls Homestead is privately owned and provides a living hands on history of the life in the 1800's for all visitors. Laura lived on this land with her parents for 5 years and eventually Almanzo and her had their own homestead just north of town. In addition to the Homestead, there is much more in town to tour related to the Ingalls Family.
That evening, Patty, Truman, Bess and myself took a long walk around the property taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the South Dakota prairie on a cool and breezy July evening. We walked back to a local church that had been saved and brought to the property where I think we both stood and stared for several minutes. We never spoke any words yet I think we both were thinking the same thing as we gazed above the steeple into the blue sky. Sometimes you don't have to say a thing to know exactly what the other person is thinking.
Later that evening as we sat around the campfire watching the sun set in the distance, it was as if you could hear Pa playing his fiddle and Laura and Mary dancing around. A couple of times I had to wipe back a stray tear from my eye as in my head I could see my sisters big smile and her voicing the words "thank you" to me. It was both tears of sadness and happiness. We were able to help my fulfill my sister's Someday and on that particular evening I felt just a bit closer to her than I had been in over a year.
I saw a sign at Walter's Fruit Ranch that probably says it best: "Enjoy the little things in life for one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things."