Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mary Steffens

When I was a little girl, my most important job was to take care of my little sister Mary. I did as good a job as a big sister could, but there wasn't anything I could do when she got Stage 2 breast cancer 13 years ago. And when it recurred 8 years ago, and metastasized to her lungs and bones and, finally, her brain, I was helpless. We talked on the phone at least once a week during the past year and a half, and every single day for the past several months. I'm very much at peace with our relationship--even when we were busy with children and other activities, we always made time for each other, and were never closer than during the past few years. But now there's a hole in my life, and in my heart, that can ever be filled. I spent this past week in Chicago--when I headed down there Saturday, I was pretty sure I'd be seeing her for the last time, but expected to be able to spend a week or two with her. But my nieces called me when I was just reaching the expressway and told me to hurry, and she slipped into a coma just a few hours after I arrived. She knew I was there--she squeezed my hand--but that was her last conscious act that I know of, and she died Monday afternoon. Several minutes after she died, her face relaxed into a smile. A genuine smile. After all her body had been through, she was at peace at last.

The nearest we could tell, there were about a thousand people at her wake, the church was very full at her funeral Friday, and all the stories I heard about her were amazing testimonials to a brave and loving woman who loved and whose love was returned by a great many people.


  1. Laura, I am very sorry for your loss. My sister has also had breast cancer not once but twice. You will be in our thoughts and prayers.


  2. Laura, you have my sympathy and love.

  3. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

  4. So wonderful that you could be with her and give her some love to take with her. Sincere condolences to you and your family. Thank you for sharing a bit of your sister with us.

  5. Laura:

    I been busy nd not keeping up with your blog and when I read that your sister died I was teary eye thinking about my nephew who died of cancer amd like you I was able to have one last act of communication before he died.

    My heart goes out to you!!

    Mike H.

  6. Laura

    Your family is in my prayers.


  7. Laura, I am so sorry to hear about your sister. You have my deepest condolences.

    Carolyn H.

  8. Laura - sorry for your loss, but glad you were there to squeeze her hand. - Hugh

  9. Hi Laura,

    Sharon and I are very sorry for your loss. We have both lost family members to cancer. Your sister fought a courageous battle and she was blessed to have you around. I remember you talking about her when we birded last year on the North Shore. Ken N.

  10. Laura, I'm so so sorry.

    I"m glad you got to be there, that she loved and knew it at the very end.

    Loads of hugs,