My sister Kathy passed away nearly 30 years ago. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. She was a bright light in my life that still remains in my heart and although I cannot physically touch her or hug her she is and will always be the constant in my life.
Kathy lost her battle with Leukemia on November 20, 1980. She was a fighter in everyway, but this was one fight she couldn’t win. I will never forget the day she was diagnosed. We were performing, yes a family full of performers, in the musical Show Boat. We played the children (of course) and I was fortunate enough to scream, “Here comes the Showboat Parade!” My sister Kathy and I also had to change in this closet because there was no room in the dressing rooms for us. Well, the child wrangler came in to check in on us, who was also a friend of the family, and noticed my sister had quite a few bruises on her legs and arms. After the show the bruises were pointed out to my mother who immediately took Kathy to our family doctor. From there Kathy was sent to the Boston Childrens Hospital. It was official, this red headed 10-year old was diagnosed with Leukemia. Being 12 years old I didn’t know too much about what was going on, I just knew that my little sister was pretty sick.
The dates and time are pretty vague to me, but I do know this…my sister Kathy, was diagnosed with AML Leukemia. She lost her beautiful red hair, she got sick with every visit of chemotherapy, and she was losing her bright light. Months had passed and finally they found a treatment that worked. Kathy was in remission and was able to come home for Christmas. It was a miracle! She was getting her strength back and life was good again.
Months had passed again and tragedy struck Kathy. She relapsed. This time she was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia. It was then that her life ended. Why was my poor little sister being put through this torture? She did nothing! She is just a child! Why not me? Let me take her place! I was tired of seeing my little sister suffer. For the longest time, I guess even to this day, I wanted to take her pain away. I felt that I had done something wrong and God was punishing me and taking my sister away. I would pray every night asking God to make my sister better and that I promise to be good if he could do this for me. My prayers weren’t answered.
I remember being taken to the hospital because it was time for us to say goodbye to Kathy. This killed me. I was a mess, crying and sobbing because I didn’t want my sister to go anywhere. One by one they took us in to say goodbye. To be honest, I don’t remember being able to say goodbye to Kathy. I remember not being able to stop crying and being told that Kathy wouldn’t want to see me like this, be strong for her. But how can a 12 year old be that strong? So, I do not remember being able to say goodbye to my sister. What I do remember are two things…First, Kathy won a trip to Cape Cod, for two, and she planned on taking my Dad. Before Kathy closed her eyes for the last time, she said to my Mom and Dad that she was going to sleep and dream about her Cape Cod trip. Secondly, I remember after our trip to the hospital, my sisters and I were sitting in the living room when we saw my uncle walk up the back steps. We knew that he was going to tell us that Kathy had died. Then we saw my Mom and Dad come home. My mom never left my sisters side so when we saw her come home, it was confirmed.
Every year my family and I walk in memory of my sister Kathy to benefit the Jimmy Fund of Boston. This year before the walk my Mom and I were sitting in the basement of my parents house where she pulled out a few of Kathy’s belongings. It brought back many memories for me. My Mom told me that she found Kathy’s diary and in it she wrote, “I have the best brother in the whole world.” After my Mom went upstairs I held onto Kathy’s clothes, I noticed that they still smelled like her…I could even smell the hospital. I sat and cried for a while.
I know that Kathy is watching down on me. I know that she is by my side always. When I need someone to talk to or guide me in the right direction I say a little prayer to Kathy, who I know is up in heaven taking control of the situation. Whenever I am home I find time to visit her gravesite. I have often wondered what Kathy would be like now…would she still be in theatre with me? Would we be taking Broadway by storm? I will never know, but I do know that every production I am a part of is dedicated to her memory. And when I win that Tony Award for Best Director, Best Choreographer or Best Play…or if I am fortunate, all three. I know she will be standing right next to me.
Kathy will never be forgotten. Her laughter, her smile, and her mischievous way, and especially her love will always be with me. You are my light.