Friday, May 12, 2017

My Sweet Sister Leslie

Surreal.

Good word.

It felt surreal hearing about the death of my older sister and traveling thousands of miles to bury her and help put that whole nightmare in order.

Remember the name Wenatchee, Washington. Look it up, that's where she lived and that's where she gave voice lessons. It's one of those 'you can't get there from here' places but it's beautiful and has some of the best people you will find anywhere.

Sometimes when people die you can see that train coming and when it happens it's not a surprise. This? A major surprise. Leslie had gone in for an unexpected surgery, and although every surgery is something to pay attention to, this was supposed to be, if not routine, pretty basic.

It went from she's out of surgery to she's gone likethat.

And that's how I found myself on a jet to L.A., then to Seattle where I hooked up with my dear younger sister, Karen, in the airport. She had flown in from Maryland. We rented a car and drove through the mountains for three hours to get to Leslie's house.

I told you it was out of the way.

Russia
That ride alternated from crying our eyes out to laughing over memories that we shared.

Speaking of memories, here are a few that rolled around in my head...

Leslie one day being just a teenager and then seemingly overnight turning into this glorious soprano.

Singing in Russia and teaching Muscovites to say (in a New York accent) "Cawfee Regular."

Seeing a picture of her in Time magazine when she performed in Phillip Glass' Einstein on the Beach. It was at BAM, the Brooklyn Academy of Music. You think I showed that to everybody?
Leslie at my wedding.
She found Matthew Broderick watching the rehearsal
from his hotel room.

Leslie singing "Longer," by Dan Fogelberg at my wedding and having all the people there in the palm of her hand. At the end of the song, she took it upstairs to a range I can only write about. Beautiful. Afterwards I told her how great that ending was and she said with a smile, "Well you know what they say, if you have the money notes you have to hit them."

Leslie going to Washington D.C. to be on the mall for Barack Obama's first Inauguration in that huge crowd. She wasn't in the best of health, but she said, "I have to go. I wouldn't miss this for the world."

Another story I've told a lot...Leslie put together a benefit for the Wenatchee Valley Symphony. Dad and I were the out of town muscle as we flew across the country to be part of it. Dad sang and I was the emcee. A good haul for them was a thousand dollars. We raised north of fourteen thousand that night.

At the end the audience turned as one and clapped up to her box. I'd never seen that before I've never seen that since.

Just a few things on my mind as we pulled up to her home.

Her best friend, Nadine, was there with her husband Rick. After unpacking, laughing and crying, we decided to go to dinner. Here began the wonderfulness. One of her friends left us a gift card so we wouldn't have to spend our money to eat.
My sister Karen, Nadine and her husband Rick.

We experienced things like that the whole time we were there.

People telling us over and over how dear Leslie was and how important she was to their life. How she brought out things in their voice they never knew they had. What a shining star she was to the community.

I remember the doorbell ringing and an eleven year old girl at the door inquiring, "What's going to happen to Leslie's house?" Then telling us the plan was to have her take voice lessons at thirteen.

That won't happen now.

We also experienced the usual...the reading of the will, the funeral home, the house that was now so empty without my older sister.

Nadine was the executor of her estate and Karen and I numbly went through our paces with her.

That Tuesday evening we had a party, a celebration for Leslie, and here they came. Before I tell you about that, one more story.

Earlier that day we went to the UPS store to ship a few things home. It was two boxes. At the store a woman, Samantha, after getting my address and hearing about Leslie, asked me when she had passed. I told her the previous Thursday. And then she said, "This is on us." What? They shipped my things home free of charge.

Waterworks, people, waterworks.

So kind.

That evening the house was full of people who'd been touched by Leslie. It was a wonderful gathering. Great food, great wine. At one point I raised my glass for a toast to her and everyone raised theirs.

One young man told Karen he'd driven four hours to be there.

Four hours?

He said simply, "She changed my life."

We got up early and left the next morning for the airport. We caught our flights for the long trek eastward.

I cried all the way home.

Surreal.



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