Jolene Marie

When I was born I had an older sister, Jolene, and an older brother, Ron. When I was two and a half my sister passed away. She had a brain tumor that, even though they caught it late, was operated on and successfully removed. What she ultimately died of was pneumonia. Back then they didn’t get patients up and walking around or breathing into spirometers like they do now. They just let you lie in bed and recover. And sadly, she didn’t.

Fast forward several years and I was about to turn seven, the age Jolene was when she passed, and I was terrified that I was gong to die too. It made perfect sense to my six-year-old brain that females in my family die when they turn seven. I was petrified to go to sleep, even going so far as to try holding my eyelids open with toothpicks that I had snuck from the kitchen cabinet at night. If my eyes couldn’t close, I couldn’t sleep and therefore, couldn’t die. It was very clear to me.

At six I was a nervous wreck.

Thankfully, my parents made the decision to put me into therapy and didn’t just tell me to get over it. It was a kindness that means so much more to me now than when I was a child, but even then I knew I was receiving a gift. I was blessed with the most wonderful woman as my therapist. Mary and I met weekly. She let me make myself hot tea and put as many sugar cubes in it as I wanted. I liked it very, very sweet. I felt so grown up and special. No children I knew drank hot tea. She also brought in pomegranates and let me pick out the seeds and eat them during our sessions. It was nirvana. Mary created a very safe haven for me to go and tell the truth and be held and be heard. I was a lucky girl.

During our time together she brought in an anatomy book and carefully explained to me about the tumor my sister had, where it was located, and showed me on my own body where it would be if I had one. She explained my sister’s symptoms and asked me if I had any of them. I didn’t. It was such a huge comfort to know that because I didn’t have those symptoms, I likely didn’t have that tumor and I wasn’t, in fact, going to die.

It was really incredible and life-changing stuff.

There are a couple of amazing and Grace-filled parts to this story. The first is that I learned very early on that  therapy can be such a gift. That having a space to tell the truth and be heard is invaluable. And I became person that for my friends. I had one friend tell me that her parents were getting a divorce. NO ONE’S parents were divorced at that time, in our Catholic school community, and she didn’t want to tell anyone. She told me. I don’t know if it’s in my DNA or if it’s because I was blessed with Mary, but I have always wanted to create that space for anyone that needed one. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t.

I also learned about self-care during those sessions with Mary. Self-care can be really simple. It can be pomegranates. And it can be hot tea with as many sugar cubes as you want.

Grace is that simple. Grace is safe place to be, a person to listen and hear. Grace is hot tea and pomegranates.

This is the fourth of 31 {or more} posts that I am writing on the topic of Grace. I’ll be writing about what Grace means to me and the ways in which I’ve found it in my life. Please leave a reply any time about what Grace means to you or if you have any questions for me about Grace.

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4 thoughts on “Jolene Marie

  1. Stacy Greasby Lopez

    Laurie,
    I love this post and how you talked about getting the help you needed. I remember oh so well, the day Jolene passed away, I was 10 at the time. Afterwards, I too, was afraid to go to sleep at night, and if and when I’d get a headache, I always thought it was a brain tumor and prayed for it to go away. Jolene will always be in my heart!

    Reply

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