November 1 would have marked a decade, the Grand Finale of Celebration of Sisters, an annual ice skating event to benefit Massachusetts General Hospital to commemorate the lives and memories of my beloved sisters Margie and Jane. Due to COVID-19 the event will be postponed until November 7, 2021. The time and energy put into the event, a void, a gap in my time, my emotions needed to channel my grief for my sisters whose birthdays come on November 6th and 8th, and the anniversary of the death of my sister Jane on November 7th.

For the past nine years, the day of the event I would wake up at dawn, anxiously awaiting the excitement of the day, nervous, drink too much coffee, and my nerves and emotions all over the map at the magnitude of the day. I arrive at rink hours early to set up the venue and warm up on the ice. My adrenaline pumping as the skaters and guests arrive. Dressed in a beautiful skating dress my nerves are off the charts for my performance and hope that the day goes as I dreamed worried about all the things that could go wrong and do not. Overwhelmed year after year by the warmth and love by many and astounded by yet another wonderful Celebration of Sisters. Overcome by emotions as we honor the lives and memories of my beloved sisters Margie and Jane.

The push and pull of celebrating my sisters, missing them, ultimately feeling conflicted yet deep down somewhere profoundly proud of Celebration of Sisters. The event allowed me to give myself permission for the emotions, sense Margie and Jane guiding me. I can imagine they are laughing with or at me, telling me what was I thinking wearing that dress, or arguing about who was going to ice skate first, but in the end, just feeling the love for my sisters Margie and Jane. Celebrating Margie and Jane around their birthdays, is more than I could have envisioned.

To commence the day, our talented ice skaters welcome our guests skating out to “Over The Rainbow,” the lovely rendition sung by EZ. Dreams really do come true! As a young girl I idolized Margie and her ice skating, and her self assurance. I never dreamed to be ice skating in shows. The applause as I skate out on the ice and upon completion of my performance, echoing the love, warmth, and support of me and my sisters, utterly overwhelming year after year.

When I step on the ice with seventy-five other skaters to open with Open the Rainbow there is a surrealness to the entire day. I am not able to articulate into words how the experience feels to me. An arena filled with people in the stands. A full year of preparation and details go into the day.  There is a letdown afterwards, and then I go right into the girls’ birthdays and the anniversary of Jane’s death. It is a roller coaster ride.

I do not hear the applause. My mind is focused on the ice skating, the music, and the thoughts circling in my head, am I really doing this event in memory of my sisters? Celebration of Sisters has allowed me to channel my grief from the deep dark wallows toward some direction and focus. A full circle back to my treasured sisters in a sport we all shared, ice skating.

As I skate I can feel my sisters with me, guiding me, one on each shoulder whispering in my ear, “Judy, you’ve got this.”

 

Avatar

Judy Lipson

I am a sister who sadly lost both my sisters. I lost my younger beloved sister Jane died at age 22 in an automobile accident in 1981, and my older beloved sister Margie passed away at age 35 after a 20-year battle with anorexia and bulimia in 1990. I am the sole surviving sibling. As the Founder and Chair of “Celebration of Sisters,” this annual ice skating fundraiser honors and commemorates the lives and memories of my beloved sisters to benefit Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA. The event is scheduled the first Sunday in November as Jane’s birthday was November 6th and Margie’s November 8th. We celebrate all lost siblings, their legacies as they live on in all of us. Since the inception of Celebration of Sisters in 2011, I have embarked on the journey to mourn the losses of my beloved sisters that had been suppressed for 30 years. The process unmistakably the greatest challenging time in my life proved to be the most empowering, enlightening and freeing. Now that I am allowing my sisters and their memories to return to my heart where they truly belong, I am re-discovering myself, happier and more at peace. Ice skating is a sport shared by me and my sisters and a chord throughout my life. It has brought me full circle to pay tribute to my sisters and bring me joy, peace, healing and the recipient of the US Figure Skating 2020 Get Up Award. My memoir Celebration of Sisters: It is Never Too Late To Grieve will be published in December 2021. It is my goal to advocate for sibling loss to insure surviving siblings are neither alone nor forgotten.

More Articles Written by Judy