A Baby Sister Lives Forever

Sonna-calandrino-dies-cancer-full This week my baby sister Sonna passed away from breast cancer. Baby sisters never get to be grown up no matter how old. She had been sick for three years, always optimistic, always ready to climb the next hill. Unfortunately she was told several days before she died there were no more hills to climb and the fight was over.

From the day they’re born, some people are just special. That describes my sister Sonna. She was beautiful at birth and as she grew she became more feminine; unlike me who always wore pants she wore dresses. When she was four she asked my mom for a pair of patent leather sandals, a new standard from the tie shoes that I was wearing. This was the start of the dress designer, fashionista called Sonna.

Of course as a 6 year old I didn’t want a sister, I seriously wanted a horse. Of course I never got a horse but I got something even better. I got a sister, a mentor, a business partner, a best friend someone to laugh with and a shoulder to cry on. My mother said I could name her which made me proud, since I was only six years old. I loved our next door neighbor Sonna Lee Berch so Sonna Lee it was.

She was the prankster, terrorizing me by hiding in the closet at night and jumping out as soon as I entered the dark room.

Sonnababy  There were things we shared, our love for gardening, water skiing, color style, make up and just walking and talking. We were so alike and so different; in 1985 we both went shopping on the same day, in different cities and came back with the same outfit.
She was my business partner for 14 years and we were inseparable.—through thick and thin we were together. We fought, we laughed we cried, it didn’t matter as long as we did it together.

We shared an interesting ritual, she sent me sister cards and I bought her an amethyst piece of jewelry for her birthdays. Her birthday was February 15th, the day after Valentine’s Day. I gave her rings, bracelets, purple flowers, anything purple. The last birthday was in 2008 and I went to the hospital with purple earrings. She was so terribly sick, hardly recognizable but she said, I’m so glad you brought me something purple, I was afraid you would forget. Please put them on for me.

Today I went through the cards and letters and found the sister book. In essence it said, thank you for the years and what you’ve given me. Protecting and looking out for me, I will always be there for you no matter what. There was my birthday card and a note, that said, “Sis, I made it through another year."

Through her illness she distanced herself from many who loved her including me. Having had cancer I remember needing distance, time to focus on trying to live and not wanting to be asked, are you sure you’re all right? I wanted to be there for her and protect her from the horrible illness that was taking her strength and her beauty but I never got to do my job. It makes me sad but her husband Rick was with her. Reading through her cards and letters makes me still feel close, maybe not part of her life, but certainly part of her soul. My mom used to laugh with us, she couldn’t distinguish our voices on the telephone which gave Sonna and I another bag of tricks. I will remember the tricks, the water skiing and the knowing that she is no longer in pain. I will go visit her grave, talk with her and leave her with her favorite purple gladiolus or grandmas peonies which we both loved. I missed her birthday this year.

6 thoughts on “A Baby Sister Lives Forever”

  1. Danny Nerenberg

    What a beautiful tribute to your sister and to your relationship with her. In Jewish tradition, you may be familiar with the expression, often said after the name of a departed one, “zichronot l’vracha”, may their memory be a blessing. Your tribute perfectly expresses and confirms this little prayer for the bereaved, that your sister’s memory will always be a blessing for you, that even though she has left us in life, she still lives in your memory with her acts and in the love and moments that you shared.
    To Sonna, zichronot l’vracha

  2. Lis,
    What you wrote about Sonna was beautiful, honest and heartfelt. You have some wonderful memories to cherish even during this time of pain. Thank you for sharing some of those memories with us!

  3. Hello Joe, it was so nice to see you last week; thank you for taking the time to visit and share in the memorial. I know you knew Sonna and her commitment to all of us in the flooring industry.

  4. Hi Caren, thank you for taking the time to drop me a note. I know you have a sister as well as a brother and how much they mean to you.
    I find myself bracing for the next person who will ask, how’s Sonna. It’s nice to know that people care, from Carolyn at the Delta counter to everyone atthe Park and Fly.

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