When I decided to go Greek, one of the main things I was looking for in an organization was a strong sisterhood. Choosing Kappa Delta, I knew I was getting just that, but at the time I had no idea how important that sisterhood would prove to be to me.
My great grandma has been a HUGE part of my life since I was born. She never stopped encouraging me and she was many of the reason that I wanted a sisterhood that pushed me to grow continuously. At more than 90 years old, she was always striving to improve herself. She made use of her spare time doing 1000 piece puzzles and playing games like Sudoku to keep her mind sharp. She was one of the strongest women I know, living entirely on her own, doing her own housework and spending all the time she could caring for her family; playing cards with us, baking for us, never missing a family gathering, and calling us daily to ask how we are. It was her mission to stay as connected and involved as possible. My world came crashing down this past semester when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to live.
Her condition was painful. And I spent hours at her side, watching her hurt in ways I can’t imagine. She was given intense pain medicines that only helped a little. The medicine transformed my strong, independent, loving great-grandmother into someone who was constantly terrified, someone who couldn’t leave her bed. She suddenly became completely dependent on her family and nurses. She thought her family, who she loved so deeply, couldn’t be trusted. It was hard for her to swallow, and hard for her family to watch. It was some of the most difficult weeks of my life, watching her fade away, and being helpless to stop it. I reached out to my sisters, feeling hopeless, exhausted and depressed. They responded in a way that only sisters can. They helped me help her. They wrote letters for her to read in her down time, wishing her well and telling her they were thinking of her. It meant so much to her, to have something to do while she was stuck in bed all day. But I think more importantly, it meant the world to her that she knew that there were people out there to help care for me when she wasn’t around to do it. People that wrote letters to a woman they had never met because a sister had asked them to.
My family cancelled our family vacation to Disney World to be with her when things started to look worse. As our chapters informal dance neared, I debated for days about whether or not I should go. I was terrified that something might happen to her while I was away, and that I wouldn’t be there for her if she needed it. My great grandma wouldn’t hear of my missing it. She demanded that I go and have fun. She never liked to be fussed over and wanted all of us to live our lives no matter what. My boyfriend and I got ready together at her house and showed her our outfits. It was a Halloween themed event, so we went as a Dalmatian and a firemen and she was so happy, to see us dressed up and going out together. That was the day she made me promise I wouldn’t ever let him go.
Before him, I was engaged to a man who was abusive. She knew how poorly this man treated me and when she met my best friend Michael for the first time, she cried to my relatives saying how we just had to be together so that I could be happy. When I finally ended my engagement and later announced that Michael and I were dating, she cried again. Hugging us both, and saying thank you to him for taking such good care of me. I should have listened to her sooner than I did. She was so smart and always knew what was best for me. I promised her I would take care of him and never let him go without hesitation, and I promised her I would go be with my sisters and have a good with them. I could see how happy it made her. I did have a great time at informal that night, despite my worry, thanks to my sisters. I know that is exactly what she would have wanted me to do.
My great grandma died a couple of weeks later, while I sat in her house having lunch. It broke me. I watched the mortuary staff wheel her out of her home for the last time, the home that I had spent every Christmas and birthday in for the last 20 years. Not 2 weeks before the holiday season began, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday, the new year. All things that she would have celebrated with me, and I would have to spend them without her this year. I felt so lost, so heartbroken.
My sisters reached out immediately to offer their prayers, support, kind words and love. Members of my Greek Family came to the calling hours and we cried together until we were laughing. I couldn’t help but feel that my great grandma would have wanted me to laugh and be happy despite her loss. I know she’d have been so grateful to them for helping me to smile and reminisce, rather than feel the pain in my heart.
Michael proposed this Christmas, and I couldn’t have been happier. I am keeping my promise to the woman who meant so much to me. I only wish she could have been there to see it. But my sisters were. They gave me all the love and support that she would have. After my candle passing, when all of my sisters were hugging and congratulating me, I couldn’t help but think how happy our letters made my grandma, and how she knew I would be loved and supported by them for the rest of my life when she couldn’t be there. I knew how much comfort that brought her, and it brought me the same comfort that day, knowing that in my sisters, my grandma was there, cheering me on toward happiness.
As I plan a wedding that I know my sweet, strong, perfect great grandmother won’t be here for, I find comfort in knowing who will be there. They’re the women who were there for me when I left my abuser last year. The same women who made me laugh at the funeral of a woman who I have admired for as long as I can remember. The women who helped celebrate my engagement, my birthday and the holidays this year that passed by with an empty chair. The women who will help me keep another promise I made to my grandma, that I would graduate college no matter what it took. They’re the women whose actions have defined sisterhood, confidence, strength and compassion for me time and time again, and on my wedding day I can’t imagine wanting anyone else to stand at my side. I know my grandma would be so happy they were there. After all, Kappa Delta and my sisters embody so much of what she was. Having them there, it’s almost like having her there too.