Three years ago, she had open heart surgery to replace a valve that had been replaced 15 years previously and was wearing out.
Six weeks after the surgery, she was back in hospital for a month with a life-threatening infection. Every day while in hospital, she’d grab her ‘dolly’ that fed her a constant stream of antibiotics and walk the hospital corridor to ensure she reached her 10,000 steps a day goal.
On Tuesday, last week, to celebrate and mark her 70th birthday today, she walked 70,000 steps. It took 11 hours but she did not stop until she reached and surpassed her goal by a couple of hundred steps, And as she walked along the coastal road of Gabriola Island where she and her husband have lived for the past five years, people greeted her and cheered her on. I imagine some of them even said, “There’s that crazy Annie! Walking. Walking. Walking.” While secretly, they wished they had her verve, her commitment, her energy and her smile.
My sister Anne turns 70 today.
The age is not remarkable. She wears it effortlessly, making it appear much younger than its years.
She, however, is. Remarkable.
As children, we played and fought together. When one of us had done something ‘wrong’, we’d bribe the other to not tell our parents by passing back and forth one of our favourite toys. I often had two bride dolls. She often possessed two Teddy Bears.
In our teens, we were close. We still fought but nothing could break us apart.
Anne was the quiet one. I was the boisterous, more adventurous one. She wrote poetry. I wrote scary stories. I skied and ran and taught swimming while she read books and wrote more poetry and quietly went about making sure everyone around her was comfortable, well-cared for, and not in need of anything vital.
Two and a half years my senior, I have always acted as the older sister. Even as kids I liked to play the protector. And the boss. In our games of make-believe, I always set the scene, dictated which roles she played and generally took charge.
Anne always followed my lead, gently, quietly, without acrimony. But, cross her… well, let’s just say I learned quickly that her sense of right and wrong is very strong, laser sharp and accurate. I couldn’t get away with anything that crossed that line. And I’m grateful. She kept me out of buckets of trouble, and was always there for me when I hit a rough spot, or took a wrong turn, or went for an experience bigger than I could handle alone.
I also knew that no matter what, she would have my back. It’s who she is. There for whomever needs her. Willing to pitch in to do what is needed. Always in her quiet, unassuming, gentle way.
For the past week I have been putting together a video for her birthday – it’s been a labour of love and memory and appreciation. As friends sent in video clips and messages I was blessed with hearing about my sister through their many voices.
What an amazing gift.
Their words and messages shone a light on who I know my sister to be but didn’t always know the world could see… Kind. Thoughtful. Indefatigable. Determined. A good friend. A generous neighbour. A loyal co-worker. A beautiful, shining human being. A caretaker of the weak. A custodian of flora and fauna. A lover of chocolate. A smile that never burns out. And a heart that never quits loving nor beating fiercely with her love of life, laughter and nature.
I am so very grateful that Annie, as our father always called her, is my sister. So grateful that there is not one day of my life that she has not been in it.
Happy Birthday Annie.
You are one of a kind and the world is so much better because you make it so. Every day. In every way.