This is not the post I had planned. This is the type of post no one plans.
Yesterday, my sister-aunt, Jannie Tucker-Williams, passed away. Although she was my aunt, I add sister to the title because we were very close in age, grew up together in the same house, and in every way that mattered she was my big sister.
Jannie was the most luminous person I've ever known. She took supermodel pictures, with a dazzling smile, and always seemed to radiate light as if her heart were made of sunshine. She put the S in Savvy, Sexy, and Spirited.
If you have an older sibling, then you know they are not always sugar and spice and everything nice. Yet, on long summer days when I was little, as she griped about picking me up from day camp, she still bought me an ice cream cone from Mr. Softee or took the scenic route home so I could swing by the "special" gumball machine I loved. She taught me about boys, listened to my first day of school fashion woes, threw surprise birthday parties for me, and showed me how Halloween could be the best holiday of the year with a little imagination.
I live the life of a vagabond and never worried about staying connected to my family back in New York. Why? Whenever something happened that I needed to know, Jannie picked up the phone and called me. If I dropped off the family radar for too long, Jannie tracked me down. She was the first family member I confided in about my aspirations to be an author and she was the first volunteer to read pages. She understood the importance of patience and compassion, and the world was a better place because she was in it.
She had been sick for a few years, and in and out of the hospital numerous times over the last year. But the news of her passing came as a devastating shock. Whenever she went into the hospital, no matter what happened, regardless of test results or the need for intubation, she always came back out. She battled cancer, heart attacks, and a deteriorating lung disease that required a transplant with grace and unwavering optimism. She was a survivor.
I learned the meaning of strength and courage from her.
She passed away one day after her fourteenth wedding anniversary and thirty-six days shy of her forty-third birthday.
She was my cheerleader. She was my friend. She was remarkable.
Jannie, you ARE LOVED.