There really isn’t any other way to put it.
Today is the birthday of my sister Teresa’s birthday. I’ve lost track of the years, but not the tears.
It’s been nearly 10 years since she left us, but I still feel that she is here. Guiding us.
When I was approaching my teens, she would be the one to give reason in a world of chaos. Despite her own problems, she still managed to keep her head up and forge ahead, giving advice and a bit of wisdom. She spoke the truth, and if your feelings got hurt, tough.
When she passed away, I felt a void had been placed there.
Whenever my job at Access Sacramento would allow me, they’d send me to conferences all over the west and sometimes I’d travel on my own. Teresa would tell me, “Bring me a newspaper. I wanna see what’s happening where you go.” And I did that – Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Milwaukee, Bellingham, Portland, Eugene, Omaha – every place there was a stop that had a newspaper, I’d pick one up to bring to her and I’d tell her, “One of these days, you should go.”
But she couldn’t. Her only son was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia as an infant (he’d live to see 37 years) and she had devoted her life to raising him and making sure he was safe and well. Maybe that’s why I became her scout, discovering different places and things and to tell her about them plus bring her that town’s paper. And I didn’t mind it at all.
When she left us, I felt something strange. Back in the day, I was working with Lokesh Prashar on his Bollywood Tunes show. We pulled in an all-night editing session and he dropped me back home. No sooner that I stepped in the apartment, there was a knock at the door. It was my nephew Michael. He told me that Auntie Terry had passed away overnight. I was thinking he was joking because he would, but it wasn’t a joke. He left me alone for a few minutes while I grieved and then we went to Methodist Hospital to say one of many goodbyes. That afternoon, I tried to absorb myself into my work at BT, but I just couldn’t. I had to find a place to break down.
I remember during hers and my mom’s birthday at HomeTown, I was wearing a business sulu that my friend and co-worker had brought back for me from Fiji. I wore it to the restaurant. My other sister thought I was trying a different religion because I wore it. I told her that I liked it, and I will wear it whenever I want to weather permitting. Teresa and Etta (my big sis) applauded the move. The next day, I called Teresa and apologized and she said, “There’s nothing to apologize for. You looked more Polynesian like cousin Violet told Mama. You always tell me I should go. Well, Little Brother, you should go.”
But when she passed, I found it hard to go. The wanderlust had left. So I had to do basby steps. I went to El Cerrito in the East Bay to start. Then I made my way to Los Angeles three times. Finally, I decided that it was time to put back money and go to Hawai’i. I finally made my first trip in 2009. And when I watched the sunset in Lahina, Maui, I remembered the hibiscus lei I placed in Teresa’s coffin. And realized that she guided me there.
She was always a positive role model in my life. A shining beacon in the storm we call life.
She was my guiding light. Our guiding light.
I am missing her physical presence. Her spiritual one is still here.