A few times through out my blog, I have mentioned my sister Janice. She has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and has lived with this horrible disease for many years. Today, she has limited mobility and has a hard time remembering recent events. Ask her about our childhood, and she remembers everything. At family gatherings, she loves to be where the action is. Because of how MS has affected her mind, the anger she’d carried with her for years as her MS was progressively worsening, has now turned into a state of happiness (for lack of a better term). She laughs a lot when we are together, and I’m not sure if she realizes the full extent of what has happened to her mind.
I see my sister as two separate people now. The Janice before MS (and at the beginning stages of MS), and Janice now…after years of living with MS.
Below: I took this photo in August of 2010. I love this photo because her eyes hold so much joy and compassion.
Because many people see Janice as she is now, they forget or don’t know who Janice was before the MS.
I want you to know who Janice was when she had her health. I am not taking away from the amazing parts of who Janice is today…I just want to pay tribute to the amazing woman Janice was when I was growing up. When I say she “had” or she “was”, there are still parts of that personality that lives within Janice. But I need to use these words because MS has taken so much from Janice.
Janice was full of energy and she loved people. She didn’t like being alone, she always surrounded herself with lots of people. She had a selfless giving heart. She volunteered often within her kid’s school, her community, and her church. I remember going to visit her in Fox Creek. When I arrived, she showed me to my room. She had purchased magazines she thought I would enjoy, bought me flowers, and had bought all the fixings for home-made subs. We built them together as my nephews played in the living room. She had the whole week-end mapped out with lots of activities which included nightly and morning walks. She loved to walk, she loved to run.
She lived for her boys, for her husband, and for God. She was uplifting and encouraging….always encouraging. She was empathetic and sympathetic. She was quick to tears if she saw another hurting. She laughed a lot. She smiled a lot. She talked a lot. ha ha! She used to ask me and my sisters to follow her around the house as she worked so she had someone to talk to. When I think about the sister I knew growing up, I see Janice with a huge smile. A vivacious woman who was always on the run. She loved every minute of that hectic lifestyle as she always gave so much of herself to others without ever expecting one thing in return.
She lived life with so much joy and an infectious energy. She definitely was an energy-giver.
She loved to bake. She worked in a bakery for a while, and made the most delicious cakes. She made special birthday cakes for her boys, with intricate piping.
She also knows sign language (and to this day she remembers). She worked with hearing impaired youth. She was also a teacher’s assistant as well.
She lived for others, not for herself. The reason I felt compelled to tell you about Janice today, was because as I was looking through old boxes in storage downstairs, I came across this letter. She wrote it to me in the days after I was dealing with the traumatic event that happened at camp when I was a teenager (click here to read about the event I’m referring to).
When I found this letter, it was like finding a treasure. To read the words of Janice before she had MS was amazing. It broke my heart to read that she was asking me for forgiveness for the relationship issues we had growing up. There were years in between us, and because of this we grew up at different times, but I was the one that should have been asking for forgiveness. I was a bratty, angry teen. Forgive me Janice, I always looked up to you and respected you. You always showed me love and support. You had, and continue to have a huge part in shaping who I am. Today, when I go for a run I think of you. I think of how you loved to run and how you would give anything to be able to run again. Thank you for all you have taught me about life.
We all have times when we take our health for granted. My sister has taught me to never take it for granted. If you can run, then run. If you can walk, then walk. If you can share, then share.
If you can raise your children with the freedom of having your health and you are able to teach them, show them love, and how to live a life full of joy…then teach, love, and live with a grateful heart.
Below: Janice, August 2000.
I love you Janice.
Before I hit publish on this post, I phoned Janice and had a nice chat. I’m thankful for the relationship we have today…full of love, laughter, and respect. I read her the letter I found and she said through laughter “That was a nice letter I wrote you Chris, wasn’t it?!” Yes it was my dear sister. Thank you.
From my heart to yours,