Monday, September 22, 2014

Loving Our Sweet Mindy

Today we will bury my beloved niece Mindy, the daughter of my brother Rick and his wife Diane, the little sister of my nephew Mitchell and the heart sister of Mitchell's wife Michelle. She passed away unexpectedly this past Thursday from a medical condition no one knew she had, only two months after her 25th birthday.

There is so much on my heart to share about Mindy; it's hard to know where to begin....

Mindy was such a sweetheart. I don't mean that in the trite way. She really had a sweet, sweet heart. She was gentle and kind, and she loved her whole family, from her grandparents to her cousins and their children.

Mindy was quiet and laid back, but she wasn't shy. I've heard over and over the last few days that Mindy could light up a room, and that is true. It was her dazzling smile, which I always felt was especially for me. Each time I came to Rick's for a family gathering, I rounded the corner to the kitchen to find Mindy at the stove, trying out a new recipe that I knew would be delicious. Her whole face would light up because she was delighted to see me. I felt like the guest of honor no matter how many people were there. And I suspect we all felt that way.

She had a dry, irreverent sense of humor like her father, and she could always make me laugh. I loved to listen to their banter.

Oh how she loved dogs. I've never seen someone who loved them more. I'm not a dog person, but the love she lavished on her two Dachshunds made me wish that I were. Howie and Chloe were her joy.
Mindy and Howie

From a very young age, Mindy loved travel. She's a big part of so many of my best family vacation memories. She camped with us, went to San Antonio with us, and flew to Canada with us twice. Having her along added so much joy for us because that girl just really knew how to have fun. She loved any kind of outdoor activity, and I had the privilege of watching her learn to water ski, wake board, rock climb, and snowboard. She wasn't exactly fearless; she was certainly nervous. But she didn't let fear stop her from having fun, and whatever it was, she was confident that she could do it.

Probably my favorite picture of Mindy -
Sledding with Uncle Bill in Vancouver

On the Vancouver trip when she learned to snowboard, she spent a lot of time on her behind, as all people do when they are learning. Yet she still managed to talk me down one steep hill when I kept having those wipe-outs where your skis go flying. "You can do it, Aunt Sarah! Don't give up," she called, as she drug herself back to her feet. When we finally made it to the bottom, we laughed over the irony of a niece coaching her aunt.

I wish I had time to tell you all the stories stored up in my heart. I'd like to share one silly one that maybe no one else knows. Mindy posted this comment on a blog entry I'd written about running a country convenience store back when she was a very small girl (about 9):

Oh man do I remember those burgers, they were to die for! My memories of Mitchell and I staying out there with y'all are vague but one really sticks out in my mind. When he would bully me or give me a hard time, I would write it all down so that I could tell my parents when we got back and they could punish him for all of the horrible things: "Mitchell hit my arm", "Mitchell called me stupid 2 times", "Mitchell told me to to shut up!". Lol I think by the time I got home I was so excited to see my parents that I forgot all about it.

I'm happy to say that she and Mitchell worked through their differences and have been dear friends for years now.

My favorite recent memory of Mindy is the pasta cooking lesson we attended with Rick in December 2012.

Rick, Me, Mindy

Family Pasta Night at Rick's
Family Friend David in the Back

It had been less than a month since Bill and I separated, and I was hurting terribly. Mindy was a normal, busy college student, and it was the Christmas season, yet she made time to spend a whole Tuesday evening with her aunt. Laughing with her and Rick was medicine for my torn heart.

Mindy and I developed a closer bond over the next couple of years. She was compassionate and kind, always concerned for me. She didn't necessarily say a lot, but she had a way of drawing me out. She was a great listener, and a cheerleader for me as my heart began to mend and I started enjoying life again.

We loved to talk about cooking and about eating. She shared my love for vegetarian meals, and we liked to swap recipes.

Mindy was a strong, determined young lady. She had some struggles with college, and it took her some time to find the right direction. But she stuck with it for seven years and finally achieved her goal this past spring. I was more proud of her than I could have been if she had breezed through it in four years.

I don't know how we can bear losing our sweet Mindy, but of course we must. Rick shared his concern last night that because Mindy was the glue that brought the family together, that we might drift apart. Mindy was the one who thought up activities and arranged them. She was the one who organized the cancer walks.
Me, Rick, Diane, Mindy - Undy 5000

We agreed that this was Mindy's legacy. She loved family. I think it was because of the ordeal of Rick's colon cancer in her mid teens. She visited him every day after school, and she sat with him during every infusion. She never forgot what it was like to almost lose her daddy, and she never took any of her family for granted.

Last night we vowed to honor Mindy's memory by making our family time a priority from this point on. Right now we need each other desperately, but truly we always need each other.

These last few days have been a good start. The love binding us together has been palpable. We've hugged each other tighter, and much longer--way beyond the usual quick squeeze. We've added kisses to the hugs. We've rubbed backs and squeezed shoulders. We've said, "I love you so much."

In the middle of her own loss, Diane has comforted her nieces and nephews, speaking words of affirmation and hope.

Diane with Susie, Allyson, and Halle

I see the same strength in her that held her family together during Rick's illness. Here is what Mindy said about that in a comment on one of my blog entries titled Circle of Strength:
I love that you wrote this. I vividly remember that day.
I never really stopped to think about just how much of a Mama Bear that my mom was during that time but you described it perfectly. She was (and still is) definitely the rock in our family. When my dad was suffering, I was falling apart and Mitchell was shutting down, she kept herself and us together.

Diane is still a Mama Bear, but I pray she will realize now that she doesn't have to be strong. She is surrounded by people who love her, and we are still a Circle of Strength. I've never been more thankful for the love of my family. This is surely a treasure in the darkness. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5)

Mindy, we are so thankful that we had 25 beautiful years with you. You touched our lives deeply and we will never forget you.


Diana said...

Sarah, I am so very sorry for your loss. I am thinking of and praying for you and your family

Sarah said...

Thank you so much, Diana.

Michelle Dunlap said...

Beautiful words, Sarah. Thank you for sharing them with everyone.
Love, Michelle

tammy said...

Sarah i know how hard it is to lose someone so beautiful the loss of my brother was the hardest thing God has ever given me but he knows you will make it your in my heart and prayers thank you for sharing Mindy's story it truly touched me.
Love always
your sister in Christ

Sarah said...

Thank you, Michelle and Tammy.

naiyalexic said...

I am deeply sorry for your loss. I don't know if there is anything I can say that will comfort you, but I wish it for you and all of Mindy's loving family.

After losing my beloved Auntie-Godmother this past week and going to her Trisagion and funeral services (the latter at our family's beautiful oasis within St. John's Greek Orthodox Church in Salinas, California) I feel closer to God and Jesus than I ever have in my life. For that I am grateful and feel some peace. I've never been much of a "religious" woman, although, I have always had conversations with God and my angels from the time I was a baby. Does that sound strange? Seemingly alongside this renewed connection, at least partly due to Father Mark's reminders in the sermon about resurrection and everlasting life, just today, I find myself in a happier state, where I was only sad and tearful before, to have known, loved, and lost such a wonderful, strong woman, my godmother Mary Marionga Cominos-Kastros. She was one of my greatest and most stalwart angels. <3

All blessings to you and your family at this time. I truly hope that you will find peace and comfort in knowing that Mindy's soul and spirit are with God, doing important work. Perhaps your loving, kind, gentle Mindy has been called away for something special. Sometimes they are, you know?

Sarah said...

Naiya, thank you so much for your kind words. I'm very sorry for your loss also, but thankful you found some peace and connection with God during that painful time. I do believe the thought of eternity turns our hearts toward our loving Father. I pray you continue to find comfort in Him. Blessings to you and your family, also.


Related Posts with Thumbnails