There is so much I’d like to say about Charlotte, it’s impossible to confine it to a couple pieces of paper and a few minutes of speech. How can I sum up the beautiful life of my sister, my best friend, with mere words? I know I will fall short, but still, I have to try.
Charlotte was blessed with a generous nature, a giving spirit that drew others to her, like cold hands to a warm flame. The sparkle in her eyes and her brilliant smile put others instantly at ease, and once a good giggle-fest had been shared with her, one could rest assured that a lifelong friendship had been forged.
My sister was a hard worker, sometimes working more than one job just to stay afloat, but she never had much from a strictly materialistic standpoint. She may have had only five dollars left after paying her rent, but if her family or friends, or even friends of her kids’, needed that money, she would have given it without a second thought. But it wasn’t just help with money; she was always willing to give her time, as well. If you needed a ride to work, or help cleaning a new house, or somebody to babysit, she was there. If you accidentally dyed your hair green, or tried to cut it yourself and ended up with a disaster, she’d laugh and invite you over and fix it for you – even if she’d just worked a twelve hour shift and was exhausted. Her couch was often a safe haven for a friend in a difficult situation, and there were few things that couldn’t be remedied with a long talk over some Velveeta mac-n-cheese and a cold Coke. If your situation was really dire, she may have loved you enough to even share some of her Sunkist.
My sister loved deeply, especially her family. Charlotte had five biological children, but countless other children grew up calling her “Mom.” At any given time, she could rattle off a host of reasons she was proud of all her kids. Devin was her oldest, and though he grew well past six feet tall, she never stopped seeing him as a little boy. She was often amazed by the pictures Devin could draw, and would show anyone willing to look at his latest artwork. Charlotte had a deep bond with her daughter Amanda, bragging about her many creative abilities and always wearing some bit of jewelry Amanda had made for her, and showing off pictures of her pretty little girl. Wally, “Little Boo Boo”, her middle boy. I can’t count how many times she secretly recorded Little Wally singing and then sent it to me. She knew he hated it, but she was just so proud of him she couldn’t seem to help herself. Of course, these would always be followed up with a text that I wasn’t supposed to tell she had done it. Sorry, Boo. Brandon was her fourth child, and she was constantly tickled by his big grin and his mechanical inclinations. Somebody would mention a problem with their car, and she would proudly say, “My son can fix that for you.” Brandon probably has no idea how many times his auto mechanic services have been offered up to total strangers. Of course, her baby, Little Dustbuster. Dustin. I can honestly say without a hint of exaggeration that there has never been a time in 22 years that talking about Dusty didn’t make Charlotte smile. I remember how she cried when he started kindergarten, and again when he moved out on his own. It was difficult for her to accept he was all grown up, but at the same time, she was incredibly proud of him. And it wasn’t just her own kids she was proud of…the friends of her children she had watched grow up, she followed their adult lives and was happy to tell her friends and family about Billy’s new baby or that Little Chrissy finished nursing school or what the Perez kids were up to lately. Charlotte always had a picture and a story to brag about her nieces and nephews as well, and I honestly can’t recall a time one of my kids or our nephew Dakota invited her to an event for a school ceremony or Boy Scouts or 4H and she couldn’t make it. Her family has always been the sun around which her entire world spun. She would sacrifice literally anything of her own, to make sure her family had everything they needed.
My sister was a fantastic hair stylist. From their first baby hair-cuts right up until she became ill, Charlotte was the only person who ever cut my children’s hair. Everyone in our family has had an awful time adjusting to going to a hair salon or barber shop these last few months. We’re so spoiled, we aren’t even sure what kind of hair cuts to ask for – Charlotte always just knew exactly what to do. She was also a wonderful waitress, and built such a rapport with her customers, they would follow her from restaurant to restaurant just to be able to sit in her section and visit with her.
Anyone who has ever met my sister could tell she was a determined woman. Once her mind was made up on a subject, it was impossible to change it. She lived life on her own terms. Last Tuesday, the Hospice nurse predicted Charlotte would be gone within 72 hours. It actually turned out to be more like 82 hours, because even to the end of her life, wasn’t nobody going to tell my sister what to do.
Charlotte was graced with a Gypsy soul; despite the love of family and friends, she had a restlessness in her spirit that pushed her to always be searching for the next job, the next house, the next situation that would finally feel like just the right one. This wasn’t an unhappiness, it was simply who she was. Staying in one place, or feeling tied down in an unpleasant situation just wasn’t the kind of person my sister could ever have been. One of her favorite symbols has always been the peace sign. For years, her jewelry, purses and sundresses have sported this sign, and it seemed symbolic of that one elusive something she has always been looking for.
This last week, there has been a particular peacefulness about her that I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten to see before. The sparkle in her eyes has been bright, her smile sweet, and the lines of worry around her eyes erased. In my heart, I feel she has finally found her perfect rest, perfect peace. Her perfect home.