I lost my only sister, Debra Ann Stearns, to renal cancer in August 2010. I remember the month vividly because I’d just started teaching and had to drop everything to go be with her in her last days. She was a dark-haired beauty with big brown eyes and a wicked sense of humor. She was married several times, had one child, and was a devoted grandmother. Her family loved her deeply, and her extroverted, vibrant personality drew friends to her wherever she went. Debra loved the nightlife, was a rock and roll aficionado, and might be described by some as a hard-living rebel. The adventurer in Debra took her through Europe, Canada, and the United States. Whatever she did, she did to the fullest.

Debra was an excellent cook who always tried new recipes and sent them out to family. She cooked something special for our extended family every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. We spent vacations together when our schedules allowed for it, so I missed many of these family gatherings because we lived far away. I do have a photo album of her from her childhood until almost the very end.

We had a very close, loving relationship and I helped her through a lot of things, including divorce. During the final stages of death, I helped Debra to become closer to God and to find peace. She even started going to church again. We emailed everyday and I’ve saved many of her emails, but I can’t reread these yet.

We all have issues and she had her share, but her goodness outweighed those issues. Losing her was very painful but I was blessed to be with my eldest brother Richard the weekend she passed away. She died in our arms, emaciated, frail, and on morphine, yet with dignity. Richard and I hugged, cried, comforted one another and made calls to the rest of the family, and some key friends. We made plans for the funeral and did the things people do in these situations to calm the mind, and blur the pain until later.

My sister Debra will always be missed; she brought light and happiness to every room she entered.

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