The dates are forever etched in our minds and hearts – the death anniversaries of our siblings. The calendar need not remind us; our bodies and minds tell us as the date is approaching.

My sleep pattern changes, I experience outbursts of tears or crying spells, and my heart hurts. No rhyme or reason, it seems. Some years are more painful than others;. Why is this so? There are no answers.

Grief paints its own picture.

Death Anniversaries May Take Us By Surprise

Last August 1st marked the 31st anniversary of the death of my sister Margie. This year seemed extremely challenging. Perhaps due to COVID, we are more isolated, uncertain. The many milestones marked in my life and the void of my sisters seems greater than in other years.

Margie was the beautiful big sister whom I idolized. Despite her illness, she could always read me. On the phone Margie sensed how I felt, my mood, or if I was troubled.

Every day, when I put on my makeup, I think of Margie. She preciously applied black eyeliner. My application is not as precise. Some days looking in the mirror holding the eyeliner wand, my heart feels heavy; other days, my heart smiles.

Marking a Sister’s Death Anniversary

One memory about Margie stands out. Margie was eleven and I was nine. Her best friend Michael lived a few blocks away. For Michael’s birthday, Margie made him a cake and decided we would deliver the cake to him on our bicycles.

To this day, I cannot recall how we rode our bicycles with our cake that did not get smashed!

This Nov. 7, my beloved sister Jane will be gone forty years. I miss that adorable girl whom I shared a room with. The last time I saw Jane was to celebrate my 25th birthday. In October, I turn 65.

Anxiety Leading to a Birthday

This year the anxiety leading up to my birthday feels exceedingly challenging. I seem to be experiencing more days of tears and missing Jane.

Jane never thought of me as “cool.” A friend of Jane’s in recent years relayed a story about how the two would go through my room, rummaging through my belongings. Afterward, Jane insisted all my items be placed back exactly in the location they found them.

As much as I thought of her as a little pest, I loved the role of big sister and taking care of her. Riding the “sister” bus up to camp felt triumph after years of going to camp without my sister.

Giving myself permission to feel whatever I need to has been a challenge for me, always keeping everything inside me. This year I hope I will allow myself to give in to the emotions and get the support needed to get me through this challenging time. I have a lot to celebrate this year in honor of my sisters.

Death Anniversaries Bring Complex Emotions

The complex emotions are making the anniversaries especially difficult this year. I keep looking at the photographs of the Lipson sisters as girls. The photos serve as constant reminders of my love of Margie and Jane and deep-rooted love of all three Lipson sisters.

Three sisters wearing pink carnations in our hair to celebrate our parents’ twenty fifth anniversary – smiles beaming. Jane the tallest in the center flanked by Margie and I. Sisters forever taking care of one another – Margie’s arm around my shoulder, my arm around Jane’s shoulder.

When the tears come, I need to breathe, look at the photos and cherish the memories of what I did have. I had the gift of Jane for twenty-two years and the gift of Margie for thirty-five years.

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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.

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